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

Audibles at the Line: Week 16

Miami Dolphins QB Ryan Fitzpatrick
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

compiled by Andrew Potter

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around emails about the games that each of us are watching. We share information about the games that the rest of the group might not be watching, ask questions, and keep everyone else informed about which games they might want to tune into (if they can).

On Monday, we compile a digest of those emails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these emails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Seahawks or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Lions fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors solely to cover every game on a given Sunday, nor will we watch a different game from the ones that we're personally interested in watching just to ensure that Audibles covers every game.

Saturday, December 26

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 47 at Detroit Lions 7

Aaron Schatz: Tampa Bay took a 13-0 lead with deep throws to Rob Gronkowski (TD), Mike Evans (TD), and Chris Godwin. Lots of talk this year about Ben Roethlisberger being washed, Drew Brees struggling to throw deep, even Philip Rivers. Tom Brady is having no problems. Ain't no amount of healthy coaches that can help Detroit stop those throws to those receivers.

Bryan Knowles: Detroit is playing without their entire play-calling coaching staff, all out due to COVID, The guy calling defensive plays today, Evan Rothstein, is a "research and analysis assistant," as coordinator Cory Undlin and all three positional coaches are out; Rothstein isn't even listed on the Lions' coaches page.

Add in Matthew Stafford hobbling off the field midway through the first quarter, and suffice it to say, this game is unlikely to be particularly competitive.

Bryan Knowles: It's always interesting to see just how competitive a team is after they have been eliminated from the postseason. Last week, the Jets and Bengals, despite their seasons being long since over, pulled off massive upsets; there certainly was no lack of motivation there. The Lions look like they just want to go home. That may not be an entirely fair statement -- these guys care about winning and their performance, I'm sure, and the disruption of the coaching staff has to be doing a number on them. Still, though...

San Francisco 49ers 20 at Arizona Cardinals 12

Scott Spratt: I think we can safely put the 49ers in the Jets and Bengals camp of eliminated teams trying hard to win, Bryan. And on their second drive that gave them a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter, the 49ers looked downright explosive. George Kittle is back today after missing most of the season with a foot injury. And although he had just one catch on that touchdown drive, I can't help but wonder if his loss was the biggest of the many important ones the 49ers suffered. Without him, the 49ers have fallen from eighth last year to 25th this year in adjusted line yards.

Bryan, you're the 49ers expert, I think. Is Kittle a Gronkowski-level dual threat as a receiver and a blocker?

Bryan Knowles: I'm not entirely sure why George Kittle has been activated, but he's back, and that's a lot of fun. While he's on a limited snap count, he's getting his opportunities to play with his old college quarterback, as C.J. Beathard gets his first start since 2018, reuniting the former Iowa Hawkeyes.

49ers take a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter -- the Cardinals bogged down in the red zone, while Kittle, Brandon Aiyuk, and Jeff Wilson marched off chunk plays to get the 49ers into the end zone. A loss here would be a significant blow to Arizona's playoff chances; I'm not sure what our odds would say, but they make the postseason in 56 of the remaining 64 combinations of results in the NFC should they beat the 49ers, and just 36 of the 64 combinations where they lose.

Aaron Schatz: I would definitely say that Kittle is a Gronk-level triple threat: receiving, blocking, and goofing around.

Bryan Knowles: Scott, I hate to put anyone into Gronk's stratosphere after just four seasons. But if we were dividing tight ends into Gronks and Gateses, then Kittle is the best Gronk-type currently playing in the NFL.

Scott Spratt: Woah, C.J. Beathard just took a helmet-to-helmet shot at the end of a designed run. I guess it looked worse than it was because he's still in and seems fine. But in case anyone missed this news, I think it's worth pointing out that former Cardinals first-round bust Josh Rosen is active and Beathard's backup today. I don't want to see anything happen to Beathard, but it would be interesting to see what Kyle Shanahan could do with Rosen after his circumstances with the Cardinals and Dolphins never seemed to give him a great chance to have NFL success.

Aaron Schatz: 7-6 49ers at halftime. C.J. Beathard looks like a backup. He's not that accurate, and his pocket presence isn't great. The Cardinals keep twisting guys and getting Markus Golden and Haason Reddick to him. More surprising is that the Arizona offense isn't moving anywhere. Kenyan Drake has been mediocre, and Kyler Murray has thrown a lot of his passes high. Not necessarily overthrown, more like high passes that receivers do have a shot to catch, but they're not catching most of them.

Bryan Knowles: It's 14-6 49ers now, and I'm surprised at how anemic the Cardinals' offense looks. They're averaging just 3.8 yards per play today; they were at 5.2 back in Week 1 against the fully healthy 49ers. They just can't seem to string two plays together. Forget, for the moment, about what this anemia means for their playoff matchup; this kind of performance is how you get Mitchell Trubisky in the postseason. No one wants Mitchell Trubisky in the postseason.

As for KittleWatch 2020, he has three targets, resulting in three catches and 69 yards. I'm sure Gronk would call that a very nice statline.

Aaron Schatz: The Cardinals finally moved the ball downfield, but it still took them three tries to get it in from the 1, and then the two-point conversion try was a terrible throw by Murray to DeAndre Hopkins in the corner of the end zone. The big play was a 45-yard bomb to KeeSean Johnson but otherwise their offense just looks very dull and devoid of life this week.

Bryan Knowles: Life for the Cardinals offense! Arizona puts together the longest drive of the game -- 14 plays, 87 yards -- and finds their way back into the end zone. The 49ers have been pressuring and crowding Murray all day, bringing up their safeties to help control the line, and the Cardinals finally took advantage, hitting KeeSean Johnson up the middle for 45. I'm shocked it took as long as it did for Arizona to try a shot over the top; it has been open, but it doesn't seem like Kingsbury has been calling the routes to try to take advantage of it.

On the alternate Amazon Prime feed, the announcers compared the 49ers' defensive stand at the goal line to the Maginot Line. That, uh, is not the compliment I think they intended it to be, and indeed, Arizona found a way to go up and over it to score the touchdown. Two-pointer fails, so 49ers still lead 14-12.

Aaron Schatz: Cardinals just went for fourth-and-2 on their own 35 and Fred Warner batted down a slant to Hopkins. Like, hey, Kliff Kingsbury. I appreciate you going for fourth-and-short but all these short-yardage attempts you've had, maybe consider running some sort of option or bootleg with Kyler Murray, who's a really good runner? I feel like they just aren't taking advantage of his skills.

And then the 49ers come back with a touchdown two plays later after a long Jeff Wilson run and a pass to Kyle Juszczyk from the 1. Oh boy, Cardinals.

Andrew Potter: That seems a weird criticism when the first fourth-down conversion was a Drake run and the next two were both Murray scrambles.

Aaron Schatz: I guess I'm thinking of stuffing Drake into the line three times at the goal line, and then not getting Murray outside the pocket on the two-point conversion, and then the slant on the fourth-and-2.

Bryan Knowles: Andrew and I pre-wrote some of Scramble this weekend due to some issues I was having. We may, uh, have to re-write a chunk of it after the Cardinals came out like THIS.

Game's not over, especially with the extra point missed -- it's just 20-12, 49ers, so it's still technically a one-score game. You feel like the Cardinals need to respond right NOW.

Aaron Schatz: And on the next fourth-and-inches, they play-action and then naked boot Murray out for a conversion and a huge gain! Hooray!

Andrew Potter: Are we satisfied now? :D

Scott Spratt: 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh seems pretty happy with the Kyler Murray pass that ended that drive as an interception in the end zone. He's jumping up and down, in fact.

Aaron Schatz: Interception, Ahkello Witherspoon. On the Move the Sticks Scouts audio, they're criticizing the Cardinals for throwing a fade to Christian Kirk against a taller cornerback, but I think a bigger problem is that the pressure had Murray throwing off his back foot without enough oomph on the pass.

Aaron Schatz: We have criticized the Cardinals offense so much we should also say something about the Cardinals defense, which just has given the 49ers huge holes for Jeff Wilson, even in late-game must-stop situations.

Aaron Schatz: Robbie Gould misses a field goal, and the Cardinals get the ball back with 1:05 left and no timeouts. They proceed to try to go downfield with ... 5-yard passes in the middle of the field that keep the clock running? What on earth were they thinking?

Miami Dolphins 26 at Los Angeles Raiders 25

Bryan Knowles: There was some question leading up to this game whether it would be Derek Carr or Marcus Mariota under center for Las Vegas -- and, considering Mariota's performance last week, if it wouldn't be wiser to let Carr heal the extra week and give Mariota another run. Well, it's Carr, and while he has yet to do anything particularly spectacular, he hasn't looked limited from his groin injury. Something to watch as the game goes on.

The Raiders draw first blood, going up 7-0. They have the longest playoff shot still active as of game time, needing to win out and have both Miami and Baltimore lose out to get in. The Dolphins aren't out with a loss, but they have got an uphill battle to take the seventh seed even WITH a win; losing here and having to play a possibly still-motivated Buffalo in Week 17 would be a nightmare. Pretty big game, this.

Scott Spratt: Miami is officially the master of the fake punt. Normally, it's punter Matt Haack who has a legitimate arm. But this time, it was Clayton Fejedelem.

He just ran straight at the line. I honestly have no idea how it worked.

Bryan Knowles: If you had to reduce the Raiders' defensive struggles into one issue, it'd be broken tackles -- they entered Week 16 second in the league in broken tackles given up. They weren't there in the first half, but we just saw them raise their head on the Dolphins' first drive of the second half; both Myles Gaskin and Jakeem Grant were shedding Raiders left and right as the Dolphins drove to a touchdown, tying the game at 13.

Scott Spratt: I like that Brian Flores feels capable of switching to Ryan Fitzpatrick later in games when Tua Tagovailoa struggles. He just did that with the Dolphins down 16-13 about halfway into the fourth quarter. Benching a young quarterback like this doesn't have to be a referendum on his future career prospects, whatever sports media might have you believe.

Bryan Knowles: At the same time, Scott, if they don't trust Tua in moments like this, why did they replace Fitz with Tua to begin with? I'm not necessarily saying it's the wrong move at this point in time; I just find the entire strategy at the quarterback position confusing.

Scott Spratt: My suspicion is that there are certain defensive schemes that Tua may not be as familiar with that Fitzpatrick will just have better experience to handle. But that doesn't mean that Tua isn't a better quarterback from a broader perspective, or that this experience won't be beneficial to his development.

Also, players have bad games sometimes. In baseball, good starting pitchers get pulled early when they have bad starts. But then they start again in five days.

Bryan Knowles: Well, the Dolphins will need a little more FitzMagic if they're going to come back in this one. Miami tied it up with a field goal, though it could have been more; some drops at the goal line really hurt them. Las Vegas responds as Hunter Renfrow beats his corner one-one-one, going 85 yards for a lightning score -- but the extra point is missed. So it's just a six-point lead with 3:37 left to go...

Scott Spratt: I think that was Nelson Agholor, Bryan.

You may be confused like Eagles fans are that he become really good this season after five underwhelming seasons in Philadelphia.

Bryan Knowles: Indeed it was; the tiny TV I'm working from makes it hard to tell numbers, and who would recognize Agholor the way he has been playing?

And, indeed, that missed extra point ends up huge, as Myles Gaskin breaks a tackle (drink!) and rumbles over 50 yards for a score! Miami MAKES their extra point, so it's Dolphins 23, Raiders 22 with just under three minutes left.

Scott Spratt: Welp, the refs may have just decided this one with a 49-yard defensive pass interference call on Dolphins cornerback Byron Jones. You be the judge:

Bryan Knowles: Maybe not, Scott! The Raiders turn that penalty into a field goal, and all they have to do is play safe defense to protect the lead.

Instead, they get beaten in Cover-2, and Fitzpatrick finds Mack Hollins at the 40-yard line. Better still, he makes the pass while his facemask is getting ripped off his head, and the Dolphins are going to get a chance to win this game with a field goal.

FitzMagic is real.

Scott Spratt: Look at this video.

That pass became a 34-yard completion. It can only be FitzMagic.

Carl Yedor: I turned this game on right as the Raiders scored the touchdown to Agholor. Had no idea what I was in for. Just massive pass play after massive pass play with penalties sprinkled in to make it all crazier. The Raiders did just about as perfect a job as possible of running down the clock before their go-ahead field goal, only to get burned on a sideline hole shot against Cover-2. Unbelievable.

Zach Binney: What? *

* That's it. That's the entire email from our resident Dolphins fan.

Aaron Schatz: Thanks guys for covering that ending. I turned it on with about five minutes left and was speechless.

I think the Raiders made the right move in playing for the field goal. I would rather have a two-point lead over Miami with 20 seconds left than a six-point lead with 1:40 left. The ending was just unlikely and insane.

Dave Bernreuther: I read something this morning about the third-and-1 hard count also being a huge tactical error in the pre-field goal drive, because by forcing the Kyle Van Noy offside, they got the first down without running a play or starting the clock, whereas if they had run the play, they could've milked the clock to zero before the kick. And that's true...

… but it's wrong to call that a tactical error. For all we like to say about the odds of converting in short yardage, they're still not 100%, and that conversion-by-penalty still gained them the 100% chance to run the clock from 1:55 to 0:19. Had they run and been stuffed, only a few seconds would've elapsed before Miami taking their final timeout, and we all know there's no chance on earth that Jon Gruden doesn't kick on fourth-and-whatever. So they'd have been up two with say 1:45ish left ... which is worse than all the other outcomes.

(I need to be better at Twitter so that I can go back and find that Tweet and the comments, none of which mentioned this at all.)


Sunday, December 27

Cleveland Browns 16 at New York Jets 23

Bryan Knowles: The latest COVID mini-disaster hit Cleveland. Linebacker B.J. Goodson tested positive for COVID, and he was in the recovery pool with four of the Browns' active wide receivers -- not a violation in and of itself, but there were issues with mask wearing, and so Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones and KhaDarel Hodge are out. The only remaining receiver is Marvin Hall, who has not yet played a snap for Cleveland, plus a plethora of practice squad putzers.

Unlike the Broncos quarterbackless game against New Orleans or the 49ers' receiverless game against the Packers, you'd expect the Browns to still hold their own against the Jets ... right? Right?

Right?

Scott Spratt: Who needs Trevor Lawrence when you have Jamison Crowder?

That was a pretty spiral to fellow slot receiver Braxton Berrios. And frankly, it's a bit mean-spirited to use a wide receiver at quarterback when the Browns don't have enough receivers to even play receiver.

Vince Verhei: The dots on this play from earlier in the first quarter are fun.

Scott Spratt: Sam Darnold got in on the Jets' touchdown act with an 11-yarder to tight end Chris Herndon. The Jets are now up 13-3 over the 10-4 Browns that totally aren't going to blow this game and miss the playoffs.

Wait, did Dave Gettleman mean that the New York Jets are the best two-win team he has ever seen?

Vince Verhei: Jets up 13-3 at intermission, and it's easy to point to the wide receiver touchdown pass and the sack-fumble that set up a short-field touchdown and say, well, the Jets have gotten a few breaks, but the truth is that they have outplayed the Browns pretty clearly today, with leads in total yards (178-103) and first downs (10-nine). The Browns are running their normal offense -- lots of three-wide formations with tight ends playing in the wideout spots -- and, obviously, it's not working. Surprisingly, it's the offensive line-adjacent stats where they have been most overwhelmed -- they have nine carries for all of 4 yards and Baker Mayfield has been sacked three times.

Bryan Knowles: Jedrick Wills and Wyatt Teller are both out for Cleveland, which can't help. But, still, even with all these players missing, this is ... not good.

Scott Spratt: The Jets do have the No. 8 DVOA run defense across from the No. 29 DVOA pass defense. The Browns would likely have been better off losing Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt than all of their wide receivers.

Bryan Knowles: If the Browns miss the playoffs by losing to the Jets, I will not be able to stop laughing for days. I know all the outstanding circumstances, but still...

Vince Verhei: Prepare to giggle, Bryan. You can't blame Cleveland's defensive gaffes on the wide receiver situation.

Vince Verhei: Jets punt with a 20-3 lead, but the Browns are called for roughing the kicker. That gives New York a first down on fourth-and-11, and feels like the set-up for the coup de grace. But the Browns get a stop again and then block the ensuing field goal, then drive 60 yards for a touchdown. Ja'Marcus Bradley, a rookie wide receiver out of Louisiana-Lafayette, gets a gain of 22, and Nick Chubb punches it in from a yard out.

Jets follow by going three-and-out and punting on fourth-and-1. Browns still down 20-10, but they have the ball here late in the third quarter, plenty of time left.

Vince Verhei: Browns drive 83 yards in 12 plays and Kareem Hunt runs it in for a touchdown. But then Cody Parkey's kick -- yes -- drinks off the uprights and out. Jets still lead 20-16 early in the fourth.

Bryan Knowles: Frank Gore has become the third back to pass 16,000 career rushing yards. With the way running back usage and the passing game are being used today, we may never see anyone do that again.

Scott Spratt: Also while we were away, the Browns were eying a comeback. But I think those chances may just have ended on a Baker Mayfield strip-sack backed up to his own end zone. The Jets recovered still up 20-16 with less than four minutes left.

Vince Verhei: But the Browns hold! Two runs, then Myles Garrett pressures Sam Darnold into an incompletion on third down. Darnold's ability to get the ball off saves his team about 5 yards, but also saves the Browns 30 seconds. Jets kick a field goal and lead 23-16, but Browns still have 2:52 and a timeout to get a touchdown.

Vince Verhei: The Colts' loss means that Cleveland can clinch a playoff berth with a win. But on fourth-and-inches in the red zone, they try a QB sneak, and Mayfield fumbles behind the line. It's fourth down, so even though the Browns recover the ball across the line, it's returned to the spot of the fumble, and that's a fourth-down stop. Jets win two in a row, and the Browns will need a win next week against the Steelers to get into the postseason.

I am stunned that with three wild-card teams, we are going to have a 10-win team in the AFC miss the playoffs.

Dave Bernreuther: Oh my goodness. What a horrible QB sneak by Baker Mayfield.

In real time, I thought he got it anyway ... but on review, he fumbled. And Kareem Hunt advanced it, but it doesn't matter, as explained. But wow. I don't think I've ever seen a quarterback get as easily vertical/stood up as that on what should be an easy play. And as quarterbacks go, Mayfield is low to the ground by default!

I really thought the Browns were going to come back. And now, not only have the Colts potentially missed a playoff spot, but they don't even have a shot at avoiding the possibility of Trevor Lawrence combining with competent coaching/management to oppose them in the AFC South for what could be a miserable decade.

Vince, never mind the fact that a 10-win team doesn't make it; there's a VERY real, if not likely, scenario in which an *11*-win Colts team misses the playoffs.

All because they blew Week 1 to a one-win Jags team. Swap that result with the Packers game they pulled out, and that 11-win team beats out the Dolphins on the tiebreakers.

Indianapolis Colts 24 at Pittsburgh Steelers 28

Bryan Knowles: Were the Steelers' passing issues a one-game thing, or just a cold streak? One drive is not enough information to say that for sure, but a three-and-out on Pittsburgh's opening possession is not ideal.

The Colts then march right down field against the No. 1 defense in football by our numbers -- multiple double-digit gains, shredding the Steelers run defense multiple times. No 11-0 team has ever lost four straight games (though the 1969 Rams only failed to do that because, uh, the season ended). Could the Steelers be the first?

7-0 Colts, early.

Aaron Schatz: Pittsburgh passing DVOA Weeks 1 to 10: 22.6%

Pittsburgh passing DVOA, Weeks 11 to 15: -9.1%

Much more than a one-game thing.

Scott Spratt: Has that offensive inefficiency been the reason the Steelers have given up 23, 26, and 27 points in their last three losses, Aaron? Or has their defense shown similar efficiency decline as they have lost more key contributors such as Bud Dupree in recent weeks?

Aaron Schatz: The defensive decline is just in the last three games, and it isn't as bad.

Weeks 1 to 12: -27.4% defensive DVOA

Weeks 13 to 15: -10.4% defensive DVOA

Aaron Schatz: Colts backup right tackle Chaz Green is awful. Against T.J. Watt it's a colossal mismatch. The Colts can't run anything long-developing. They just tried a play-action and Watt beat Green and stripped the ball from Philip Rivers, recovered by Mike Hilton -- who keeps making great plays even during Pittsburgh's losing streak -- to set up the Steelers on the Colts 3. James Conner finally made it in on third down so it's going to be a tie game, 7-7.

Bryan Knowles: The Colts missing their tackles might end up being the deciding factor in the AFC North AND the AFC South.

Vince Verhei: Watching the Steelers lately, with their offense consisting almost entirely of slants and curls, feels like I'm watching the world's worst parody of the Joe Montana 49ers. Those teams, of course, also relied heavily on shorter pass routes with plenty of YAC. But they at least had the threat of a deep pass a couple of times a game, and they were very productive on the ground, usually finishing in the top 10 in rushing yards. So the wideouts had a chance to make plays with the ball in their hands. These Steelers can't throw deep and can't run at all, so if the wideouts can't break three tackles every play, they're screwed.

Bryan Knowles: As long as they're not asking their offensive tackles to pass protect for more than 2.3 seconds, the Colts seem like they can do whatever they want against this Steelers defense. 9.1 yards per pass play, as T.Y. Hilton is beginning to go off. Only 4.0 yards per rushing play, but that includes some goal-line runs where they were just stopped by, well, the end zone. This might get ugly.

14-7 Colts midway through the second quarter.

Aaron Schatz: On third-and-9, Ben Roethlisberger threw a crossing route to Diontae Johnson that was a yard BEHIND the line of scrimmage. That's -10 ALEX. It got no yards after the catch. I can't even with this Steelers offense at this point.

Bryan Knowles: And, after the ensuing punt, it took just two snaps for the Colts to find the end zone again, as now even the replacement tackles are holding up, giving Rivers plenty of time to find Zach Pascal for a 42-yard score and the 21-7 lead.

Has any team ever had a more severe fall in a single month than the Steelers? They were never the best team in football, but this past month is beyond what ... well, what nearly anyone could have imagined.

Aaron Schatz: Poor clock management by Mike Tomlin. They got Indianapolis into second-and-20 at the Colts 9 with 1:10 left and after stuffing the run, didn't call timeout. So Colts could take it down to 26 seconds before their next play and then the Steelers finally called a timeout but they will get the ball back with just 13 seconds left in the half.

Vince Verhei: We're at halftime, and the Colts are up 21-7. Those seven points are severely overstating the accomplishments of this Steelers offense -- they got the ball at the 3-yard line following a Rivers fumble, and they still needed four snaps (including a defensive penalty that wiped out a third-down incompletion) to get into the end zone. They're at 93 yards of offense, but 22 of those yards came on the last play of the half on a quasi-hook and lateral play. It has been a terrible show.

Dave Bernreuther: Not a whole lot to say that others haven't already said, but I wanted to echo Aaron on that lack of a timeout on the second-and-20. That was terrible.

I may forgive him, though, if he just wanted to get to the locker room and regroup since he knew he was playing with both house money and a completely useless offense.

We've covered the latter point, but I use the former term with regard to the block in the back penalty on Mark Glowinski that negated a 68-yard catch-and-run by Nyheim Hines that was -- and maybe I'm being biased here -- absurd. Tony Romo called it "silly" on the broadcast, although I interpreted that as more that "the rule" was silly, as opposed to the specific instance, but either way, all Glowinski did was blindly and weakly shove a guy he had already effectively removed from the play, and it cost the Colts a red zone opportunity. Only that lost score and the turnover that gave the Steelers their "scoring drive" are keeping this one from being a laugher.

And, as noted, this is all happening with Chaz Green and a guy I -- a Colts fan! -- have never even heard of as the starting tackles on the road in Pittsburgh in December.

(That said, it looks like an absolutely gorgeous day there, one that I can almost feel through the TV and that I'd choose over today's Miami weather.)

Aaron Schatz: Steelers finally get a drive when they realize Chase Claypool is, in fact, on the team. Got his first four targets of the game, even a couple of actual good throws from Big Ben with zip on them. But Steelers stall at the goal line; Claypool drops the third-down pass in the end zone and then T.J. Carrie knocks it away from James Washington on fourth down. Good call by Tomlin to go on fourth-and-2 but it didn't work out. Still 24-7, Colts.

Bryan Knowles: I do not get Pittsbugh's red zone strategy. At all.

After moving the ball fairly well for the first time today -- Chase Claypool lives! -- the Steelers get first-and-goal from the 1-yard line. They try one run with Benny Snell, and then three straight passes out of the shotgun. All three fall incomplete, the Colts take the ball over on downs, and I think we can put this one in the books.

Vince Verhei: And with that, I am turning that TV to the Falcons-Chiefs game instead.

Aaron Schatz: Roethlisberger actually threw a good deep ball! 39 yards to Diontae Johnson for a touchdown after the Colts had to punt from deep in their own end. 24-14 Colts.

Bryan Knowles: Well, hold the phone -- Roethlisberger just hit Diontae Johnson for a 40-yard touchdown, burning Rock Ya-Sin. Still 24-14 Colts, but that's the beginning...

The touchdown was set up by the Steelers defense -- after failing at the goal line, the Steelers held the Colts to 5 yards, with the ensuing punt keeping Pittsburgh in Indy territory. So, add another point for going for it at the goal line, even if I continue to question Pittsburgh's actual play calling in that situation.

Aaron Schatz: Well, this thing has turned around. It looks like the Steelers offense can actually do something if they aren't throwing every pass 2 yards past the line of scrimmage. Maybe getting way behind is what they needed? Among other things, throwing downfield can earn DPI flags, and the Steelers drive down the field with the help of two of those and then touchdown pass to Eric Ebron and now this game is 24-21.

Bryan Knowles: And the Steelers get another three-and-out, and march right back down the field again. They were aided by some pass interference calls, at least one of them was a bit ticky-tack, but it's incredible how much better the Steelers' offense looks when they're allowed to throw the ball downfield. I gotta go back into the tape and see how much of the Steelers' recent flops were due to play selection rather than quarterback play.

Ebron halls in the score, and it's just a 24-21 Colts lead...

Aaron Schatz: A big part of the Steelers comeback has been improved coverage in the second half. Rivers had nowhere to throw the ball on third-and-5 and ended up taking a coverage sack and now the Steelers get it back down by only three.

Dave Bernreuther: That coverage sack was one of the more athletic plays you'll ever see a 39-year old quarterback with turf toe make, too, pulling the ball down at the last second to step up and scramble (not far, but still), only to still have nobody open and have to eat it for the sack.

This game has taken a turn very quickly, and suddenly the 14-point two-play swing from earlier is looking a lot more impactful than we probably assumed it would at halftime.

Aaron Schatz: Steelers complete the comeback, going up 28-24. A couple of underneath throws to an open John Conner, one good draw play for 12 yards, and some passes downfield. Roethlsiberger holds the safety on the touchdown with an old-fashioned Big Ben pump fake and then hits JuJu Smith-Schuster for 25 yards. Steelers offense and defense both look completely different in the second half. Football is strange that way.

Bryan Knowles: And the Steelers have come aaaaalll the way back. The yellow-flag brigade has certainly helped -- a borderline illegal contact gave Pittsburgh a fresh set of downs -- but it's amazing how much better the Steelers offense looks when they're allowed to pass. It wasn't as many deep shots this time -- a number of checkdowns to James Conner, each of which gained at least 9 yards -- but just the fact that the threat of the long pass is there, and people are running those sorts of routes, has been huge.

Aaron Schatz: We missed mentioning the deep interception by Mike Hilton when Rivers was forced to throw early by pressure which came through J'Marcus Webb at left tackle. Webb had replaced an injured Will Holden, who had replaced the injured Anthony Castonzo.

Dave Bernreuther: That's a Melvin Bullitt-like hit on third-and-2 that, if the Jets continue to do Jets things, could potentially save the Colts' season. (If the Dolphins beat the Bills next week, it's entirely plausible that an 11-5 Colts team misses a seven-team playoff field.)

The offense needs to find its first-half form, though. And they'll face third-and-6 coming out of the two-minute warning.

Bryan Knowles: The Steelers complete the comeback! Alex Highsmith gets pressure on Rivers, forcing him to throw early, and it's just too high for Zach Pascal. What an escape for Pittsburgh.

Dave Bernreuther: The Colts get a huge break on fourth-and-6 when the refs throw a DPI flag when it was actually T.Y. Hilton who grabbed and pulled to get open on a pass that Steven Nelson recovered and made a GREAT play in order to go grab one of those slow-to-the-boundary throws from Rivers ... who also threw another near pick on the following series, and has missed T.Y. Hilton badly twice (although on the second he got hit) since.

This is one of those games where I've got to think the lack of fans is just HUGE. I think Romo mentioned this as well ... what a huge gain for the Colts to be down against that defense in December and have total silence.

In the end it doesn't matter, though. Rivers *just* misses Zach Pascal deep over the middle on fourth-and-7, and now the Colts still have to bite some fingernails and become Bills fans next week.

New York Giants 13 at Baltimore Ravens 27

Scott Spratt: The Giants haven't been quite as good defensively as the reputation they developed during their recent four-game winning streak. They are only the No. 15 DVOA run defense and No. 13 defensive line in adjusted line yards. That said, they probably have the biggest defensive line in football, which seems like it would be a good matchup benefit facing the Ravens' power rushing attack. Well, through two Ravens series, that hasn't been the case. The Ravens ran 13- and 10-play drives that both ended in touchdowns and collectively ate up the entire first quarter. It's 14-0 Ravens, and the Giants could be staring at the end of their NFC East hopes.

Bryan Knowles: The Dolphins' comeback win last night hurts the Ravens the most; it takes their playoff fate out of their hands. They still have a very good shot if they can win out, and considering they close with the Giants and Bengals, it's likely they'll hold up their end of the bargain.

And, in fact, so far, so good -- Baltimore's up to a 14-0 lead as the first quarter ends. The touchdowns were fairly ordinary affairs -- J.K. Dobbins scored a touchdown in his fifth straight game, Hollywood Brown held on to a pass for once -- but we did get our Contractually Obligated Amazing Lamar Jackson Play. I don't know how you begin to defend this.

Scott Spratt: The Ravens just sacked Daniel Jones on three consecutive plays. He's in a tough spot down 27-6 behind an offensive line ranked in the bottom 10 in adjusted sack rate. But it can't be a good sign for Jones' career prospects that he has fallen from an already bad 7.6% rookie sack rate to 8.8% this year.

The Giants just got a new first down when Justice Hill roughed the punter. But I'm not sure Jones wouldn't prefer to get off the field for a bit.

Atlanta Falcons 14 at Kansas City Chiefs 17

Scott Spratt: Aaron, I think word is getting out about your DVOA rankings article about the Chiefs. The FOX broadcast just showed a graphic with a Chiefs split that showed that the team won by an average of 13 points per game in Weeks 1 to 8 but only four points per game since.

Meanwhile, Patrick Mahomes just threw a cross-field jump ball that Sammy Watkins lost to Falcons safety Keanu Neal. This game is surprisingly still scoreless more than 20 minutes in.

Aaron Schatz: Wait, isn't that the reverse? Watkins threw the ball to Mahomes?

Bryan Knowles: You got your quarterback and receivers mixed up, Scott! It was Watkins airing the ball out for Mahomes in a fourth-down play can only be considered "too cute"

Still, terrible interception for Atlanta's field position.

Scott Spratt: Haha, actually, that makes a lot more sense! I think Jamison Crowder has me flustered.

Scott Spratt: More fun with FOX point differential graphics! The Chiefs are 7-0 in games decided by six points, and the Falcons are 0-6 in those games. It would be fun if this game stayed close.

Scott Spratt: I'm not sure Atlanta deserves full credit when the Chiefs are running unnecessary trick plays in the red zone that become turnovers. But they are in the final two minutes of the first half and have a chance to hold Patrick Mahomes scoreless in the first half for the first time in his career.

I know this happens every year, but the Falcons have improved from 28th in defensive DVOA through five weeks when they fired Dan Quinn to 12th now. Aaron, are they the No. 1 DVOA defense over the last 10 weeks? I think they might be close.

Aaron Schatz: Nope, Atlanta is eighth over the last 10 weeks at -9.7% DVOA on defense.

Scott Spratt: That's still pretty good!

Aaron Schatz: Ended up on this one on RedZone so I don't know what the Falcons defense has been doing to Mahomes all day but they just fooled him into throwing an interception at the goal line. He was trying to get the ball to Travis Kelce and completely missed Foyesade Oluokun underneath, and Oluokun managed a huge return before Tyreek Hill knocked the ball out from behind. But it bounced out of bounds, Falcons keep it. Chiefs defense then rose up with two straight sacks to keep Atlanta from moving the ball. Who would have thought the Chiefs might win a game with their defense instead of their offense? Still 7-7.

Scott Spratt: OK, this time the red zone interception was Mahomes instead of Sammy Watkins. Falcons linebacker Foyesade Oluokun made an athletic play to jump an intended end zone pass to Travis Kelce.

The Falcons did allow Kelce to score at the end of the first half, but it's still 7-7 with 8:19 left in the third quarter, and the Falcons have the ball near midfield thanks to a lengthy return. That's a huge win for the Falcons.

Scott Spratt: Patrick Mahomes just threw a blind checkdown pass that the Falcons nearly intercepted. It's still 7-7 as this game enters the fourth quarter.

Vince Verhei: Falcons' first three drives of the second half resulted in two punts and a lost fumble, but the fourth produces a go-ahead touchdown. A lot of YAC on that drive -- Calvin Ridley had a 31-yard catch-and-run on a shallow cross and there were a few Shanahan-style play-action bootlegs to running backs for first downs. Matt Ryan hits Laquon Treadwell for the touchdown and Atlanta leads 14-10 with 4:33 to go.

Scott Spratt: Travis Kelce is carrying this attempted Chiefs comeback. He has catches for 36 and 16 yards in this drive with less than three minutes left in the fourth quarter. The first catch came on a third-and-10, and it put him over 1,400 for the season, a record for tight ends.

Scott Spratt: Man, A.J. Terrell could have mostly sealed this game with the third Falcons red zone interception of the day, but he couldn't squeeze this in the end zone.

Not sure why Raheem Morris challenged it, but he obviously lost. And then, immediately, Mahomes connected with Demarcus Robinson for a score to put the Chiefs ahead.

Vince Verhei: Oh, my goodness. First down at the Falcons' 25, Mahomes lobs a pass to Tyreek Hill in the end zone. A.J. Terrell makes a great leap to get both hands on the ball for what should be a game-sealing interception, but lhe oses control of the ball as he goes to the ground. It's very obvious it's an incompletion, but Raheem Morris throws the challenge flag. After what has to be the fastest review I've ever seen, the call stands and Falcons lose a timeout. Next snap, Mahomes hits DeMarcus Robinson for the touchdown and the 17-14 lead.

Only good news for Atlanta is that they still have nearly two minutes and two timeouts left to get a game-tying field goal.

Scott Spratt: The Falcons have gotten into field goal range really quickly. But with about a minute left in the quarter, they need to not settle for a field goal here.

Scott Spratt: Just after I clicked send on that message, the Falcons chose not to call a timeout after running for a new first down on a third-and-1. That cost the offense about half its remaining time. I hate that decision, but it did almost work since the Falcons then snapped with 12 Chiefs on the field. Come on Matt Ryan! Throw that pass in bounds in the end zone and give Calvin Ridley a chance to make a contested catch.

Aaron Schatz: Chiefs blitzing the hell out of Ryan on this last series of downs, he had no time to get that ball into the end zone.

Bryan Knowles: And the Falcons falcon! Koo misses the field goal, and the Chiefs are going to escape!

Scott Spratt: LOL Falcons!

From there, the Falcons were much closer to turning the ball over than to scoring six. Matt Ryan appeared to be strip-sacked on second down, but he somehow managed to get his arm going forward for an incomplete pass. And then Calvin Ridley had to play defensive back on a jump ball Ryan threw while being blitzed. That set up a seemingly easy game-tying field goal attempt. But making that just wouldn't be the Falcons' style.

Vince Verhei: That's funny, Scott, because I was thinking that the announcers were way too worried about the clock. The goal is to score with zero seconds left so the Chiefs can't answer. The Falcons end up trying the field goal on fourth down with two timeouts left, so in the end the clock was not a factor. What is a factor is that the Pro Bowler Younghoe Koo misses from 39 yards out. Oops. Chiefs escape with a 17-14 win. "Escape with a win" has really been their story this year.

Scott Spratt: And if that doesn't prove that DVOA is wrong and the Chiefs are the best, I don't know what would.

Chicago Bears 41 at Jacksonville Jaguars 17

Bryan Knowles: The Bears now control their own fate for the playoffs after the Cardinals' flop on Saturday. They have, at points, done their best to throw that away -- Mitchell Trubisky had a terrible interception as the game went into the half, throwing a desperation Hail Mary rather than throwing the ball away and settling for a field goal -- but the Jaguars are throwing it right back, throwing an interception that allowed Chicago to get their end-of-half field goal anyway. Trubisky added an extra touchdown on the first drive of the second half, and the Bears take a 20-10 lead.

The fans in attendance are rooting for every Bears score, despite this game being in Jacksonville -- a Jags loss and a Jets win ensures the No. 1 pick goes to Jacksonville, no matter what happens. And both games look well on pace for that...

Scott Spratt: I think Bryan's lamenting that the Cardinals' flop, which might allow the Bears into the playoffs, lit a fire under Mitchell Trubisky. He just threw his second touchdown of the day today after also running for one. And while this game has been against the Jaguars' No. 32 DVOA pass defense, Trubisky has performed statistically well all December. Entering today, he had a 74% completion rate, 8.4 yards per attempt, 5-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and a 112.7 quarterback rating for the month.

 

Cincinnati Bengals 37 at Houston Texans 31

 

Rivers McCown: ("Wanna see a dead body?" voice) Hey kids, wanna understand how an NFL defense gives up 371 passing yards to Brandon Allen? I wrote about it.

Carolina Panthers 20 at Washington Football Team 13

Scott Spratt: I suspect Ron Rivera's revenge game would have been a lot more fun with Alex Smith available. Dwayne Haskins just got strip-sacked on his first series, turning the ball over to the Panthers. Analyst Charles Davis did not love the call of a fumble, but I thought it was pretty clear that Haskins lost control before his throwing motion propelled the ball forward toward Panthers linebacker Jermaine Carter.

Scott Spratt: Steven Sims just muffed a punt, and Panthers special teamer Brandon Zylstra was able to jump on the fumble before momentum carried him out of the back of the end zone.

If the Saints had Zylstra on special teams last week, they might have beat the Chiefs.

Also, Joey Slye missed the extra point, so the Panthers have just a 6-0 lead late in the first quarter.

Scott Spratt: Awesome 45-yard Curtis Samuel run:

The Panthers are eight plays and 79 yards into their current drive and haven't passed once on it. I kind of love it, but I also hate that the team is doing this to Rivera. I'm going to be so annoyed if the Eagles make it into the playoffs at 6-9-1 on the strength of that Bengals tie.

Scott Spratt: Dwayne Haskins just stared down a receiver and threw an easy interception for Tahir Whitehead, and now the Panthers are up 13-0 with the ball at midfield halfway through the second quarter. And as I peruse Twitter for various Washington play clips, I'm gathering that the team's fans are not thrilled with Haskins' performance coming off his strip club scandal.

Scott Spratt: Chase Young just prevented a likely Panthers scoring drive to end the first half. He hit Teddy Bridgewater as he threw, which generated a pop fly that safety Kamren Curl secured for an interception.

Of course, Dwayne Haskins threw a pick two plays later, but at least at that point, there was only one second left in the half. Carolina leads 20-3 at intermission, and Washington would surely bench Haskins for the second half if they had any other option.

Scott Spratt: Dwayne Haskins just got pulled for former Panthers legend Taylor Heinicke, he of the 5.7 career yards per attempt and 1-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio. I'm thinking Haskins may never throw another NFL pass.

Scott Spratt: Taylor Heinicke has been dramatically better than Haskins in relief, and he just aired out a 29-yard touchdown to J.D. McKissic that gives Washington a bit of hope at 20-13. They'll need to convert an onside kick with less than two minutes left without any of their timeouts.

Scott Spratt: And DJ Moore fell on the onside kick. The Panthers are going to win this one by a touchdown, sowing chaos for the NFC East in Week 17.

Bryan Knowles: Well, Washington did clinch ONE thing today -- a prime-time special in Week 17. The Washington-Philadelphia game is the only one on the schedule where there is a win-and-in, lose-and-out scenario, so NBC is riding with (hopefully) Alex Smith and company. Just whom the Eagles will be playing for will be decided earlier in the day, but at least there will be some drama on Sunday night.

Los Angeles Rams 9 at Seattle Seahawks 20

Vince Verhei: Rams lead 3-0 at the end of a quiet, sloppy first quarter. Both teams plagued by inaccurate throws, drops, and penalties. Rams converted a few third downs set up Matt Gay for a 44-yard field field goal, but the other four drives all ended in punts. Chris Carson just ran for a Seattle first down in Rams territory on the last play of the quarter.

Carl Yedor: The Rams answer a Seattle field goal with a long one of their own on a drive that was aided by a dropped interception by Jamal Adams. Adams has been dealing with some finger injuries, which definitely could impact his ability to catch the ball. Let's hope that's the case because the ball hit him right in the hands and he couldn't haul it in. Matt Gay's 51-yard attempt is good, making it 6-3 with nine minutes remaining in the first half.

Aaron Schatz: Rams defense is stellar today. Coverage is tight. Darious Williams opposite Jalen Ramsey just stayed with DK Metcalf step-for-step on a deep throw, which is hard to do. Williams probably deserved to go to the Pro Bowl over Marshon Lattimore.

Bryan Knowles: Oh Jared Goff, what are you DOING? The Rams were finally putting some plays together, and Goff just sails a pass way over everyone's head for an easy interception.

"I have no idea what he saw," says Troy Aikman. That makes two of us.

Aaron Schatz: Darious Williams having a hell of a game. Was just step-for-step with Tyler Lockett on an overthrown deep pass. The Rams' coverage is outstanding today. Even the short dumpoffs are well covered.

Vince Verhei: We are tied 6-6 after 30 minutes of the ugliest football I have had the misfortune to watch all season -- and it's not just because of the Rams' hideous, splotchy, dingy, bone jerseys. I now support revoking the playoff berth that goes to the NFC West champion and giving the NFC east runner-up a postseason spot instead. Neither offense has a 20-yard play or has even reached the red zone. Jared Goff on the run has been a complete disaster. Embarrassing. Here's the video of his interception. Don't even worry about the result. Just watch his footwork, the way he jogs at half-speed, reluctant, hesitant, like he has no idea what the hell is going on, like he has never been on a football field before. Then at the last second he throws a jump-pass across his body for the easy red zone turnover.

And I'm not even sure that was Goff's worst play. He had another half-assed scramble on a third-and-10 where it looked like he might have crossed the line of scrimmage, then turfed the ball, throwing at the feet of a receiver 6 yards short of the sticks. On their last drive of the half he scrambled on third down and could have dived forward for the conversion, but slid a yard short of the sticks instead. He got an earful from McVay after that one. I guess he has not been the worst quarterback of the day -- Dwayne Haskins is still a thing -- but he sure as hell hasn't earned his paycheck.

Russell Wilson's struggles look more to me like great pass rush and coverage, so credit the Rams for that. However, he has had chances. He missed Jacob Hollister wide open for what would have been a touchdown, and I disagree about the Metcalf play that Aaron described earlier -- I think that's a completion for 40 yards or more if Wilson throws to the inside, but the throw went over the outside shoulder and Metcalf never had a shot at it. Wilson has also been sacked three times. Seattle is averaging 4.8 yards per run and only 2.9 yards on passing plays. They get the ball first to start the second half -- if they can somehow get a lead, might be time to stop Russ from cooking for the rest of the day.

Bryan Knowles: That should calm you down some, Vince. Seattle comes out of the locker room with the longest drive of the game -- seven plays, 70 yards, most of it on one leaping catch by David Moore, and most of the REST on a checkdown to Carlos Hyde which went for 18 yards. Wilson did a great job of scrambling around and keeping plays alive, and it ends up resulting in Seattle's first lead of the day.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks do in fact score on their first drive of the second half, thanks to Wilson's arms and legs alike. Third-and-8, he breaks the pocket and has an easy first down in front of him, but Wilson has never been interested in easy first downs, he prefers big plays instead. So he throws to David Moore, who comes down with the ball for a 45-yard gain despite more excellent coverage from Darious Williams. (The Rams secondary was full of question marks coming into the year -- tons of credit to L.A. for finding and developing a bevy of talented young defensive backs.) Next third down, Wilson scrambles again, and when the linebackers come up to pursue, they leave Carlos Hyde wide open for an easy conversion. And at the goal line, Wilson drops back, can't find anyone open, and scrambles into the end zone for a touchdown and a 13-6 lead.

Dave Bernreuther: I can't think of a single play, ever, where a quarterback left the pocket and still had as much time to move in what seemed like slow motion behind the line of scrimmage like Russell Wilson did on that touchdown run.

Don't get me wrong; I love that he stayed behind the line looking for the throw for as long as possible (or as long as has ever been available in history, pending research). But WOW did that seem like forever. And then finally -- FINALLY -- he just said "fine, I'll do it myself" and made his way to the pylon.

This ugly-as-sin Seahawks-Rams game is the type of Jeff Fisher-era game that I used to always point to as evidence why Russell Wilson was talented, but still not the MVP type; now, of course, he was my pick for MVP, so naturally it's an ugly game again ... it's still pretty clear, though, for reasons that others have mentioned, that it's not really a quarterback thing. While Russ has faded far from the MVP finalist conversation, he's hardly a disaster.

Goff, on the other hand ... hard to say what looks worse, him or the puddle-stained uniforms they're wearing. The NFL *has* to amend the five-year jersey rule for that one, right? Just on account of "putting a team out there looking like dishwater is unprofessional and makes us look bad as a league" or something similar?

Aaron Schatz: Rams slowly but steadily move down the field and then a strange challenge by Pete Carroll. Jared Goff sneak on third-and-goal from the 1, and the ball does kind of come out so Carroll challenges. But there's no clear recovery by either team, really, and Goff had the ball when the officials finally got in there. I have no idea how they could overturn this.

Aaron Schatz: And the challenge doesn't matter anyway because Seattle's defense stops Malcolm Brown on fourth-and-goal. Seahawks will take the ball back on their own 1.

Aaron Schatz: The only thing I can think is maybe the Seahawks challenged because what the heck, they wanted their defense to get a little breather so better to challenge then just call a timeout on the tiny chance they could overturn the fumble recovery?

Vince Verhei: Rams got to the goal line because they finally got some 20-yard plays of their own -- a run by Darrell Henderson around right end, a catch-and-run by Tyler Higbee. Another run by Henderson gives them a first-and-goal, but it was Jamal Adams chasing him down from behind and saving a touchdown. Worse, Henderson has to leave with an ankle injury. Starting from the 2-yard line, the Rams run it on four straight plays (including that Goff sneak and weird challenge), but they can't cross the line and Seattle takes over on downs.

Seahawks respond with a three-and-out though -- Aaron Donald beats a double team for the third-down sack. Michael Dickson punts from the back of his end zone. Nsimba Webster fumbles on the return, but the Rams recover and will start in Seattle territory.

Carl Yedor: It didn't get called out on the broadcast, but Will Dissly, who was probably the original intended target on the touchdown play, did a nice job of sealing off his defender so that Wilson had an unimpeded path to the pylon for his rushing score there. The defender was put in the position of having to either stay with the tight end or peel off toward Wilson.

The Rams appear to have made some halftime adjustments as well. It's hard to tell on the fly, but it looks like they have slightly altered the formations they're running from to change up the angles a bit. It has led to a bit more success. The passing game on their first drive was quick stuff and bootlegs, which has been effective if not particularly explosive. Darrell Henderson goes down on what was nearly a touchdown run on a play where they ran away from a blitzing Adams, sustaining an injury as he was tackled at about the 2. That tackle ends up enormously important, as the Rams are unable to punch it in after four run plays. A Malcolm Brown run on first down lost yards, second down got them back to the 1, Goff can't get in on a third-down sneak, and Brown gets stuffed again on fourth down.

Carroll actually tried to challenge for a fumble recovery on the Goff sneak because it was easy to see that he fumbled, but there was no clear recovery. Seattle lost the challenge and a timeout, but got the ball back anyway. Seattle just tries to avoid taking a safety on its first two plays, and on third down Aaron Donald wins in a hurry for a sack, forcing a punt. The Rams fumble on the punt return but somehow are still able to fall on it and regain possession despite several Seahawks having the first crack at recovering the bouncing ball.

Vince Verhei: Rams convert a couple of third downs, but the Rams have to settle for a field goal after a sack puts them in third-and-forever. That's Seattle's first sack of the day, but that's not indicative of their ability to generate pressure today -- I've mentioned Goff's struggles while throwing on the run. He also has seven carries (ties a career high, set against Philadelphia earlier this year) for only 23 yards. He hit his hand on a pass-rusher's helmet on one of those third-down plays and it seems to be bothering him. Seahawks up 13-9 early in the fourth.

Aaron Schatz: Rams coverage gave way a little bit and the Seahawks get down the field to take a 20-9 lead. Tyler Lockett was open for 24 yards on a Levels concept, Metcalf got 8 in the middle, and then a safety got picked at the line of scrimmage and Jacob Hollister was open ahead of him for the touchdown. (I can't remember the number on the safety who got caught, unfortunately.)

Dave Bernreuther: A nice touch pass to Jacob Hollister reminds us that this is not a Fisher-era Rams-Seahawks battle after all (nor is Wilson that quarterback) and it gives the Seahawks the division. They were stuck in mud there for quite a while, but in the end, 20-9 is a good win. Especially encouraging late in the year to have a defense that had looked as bad as theirs did and to limit a playoff team to nine points ... even if much of the fault for that lays with Goff.

Bryan Knowles: ... did Josh Reynolds just place the football on the ground, fumbling it to Seattle?

Scott Spratt: Hahaha, yes, Bryan, he did. He caught a pass and wasn't touched. He just put the ball on the turf trying to help the team get to the line of scrimmage quickly, but that should have been a fumble.

Aaron Schatz: Nope. Reynolds gave himself up, and they rule correctly that it's not a fumble.

Bryan Knowles: The officials rule that no, he was trying to give himself up, but there was a 15-yard penalty for ... I'm not entirely sure, exactly?

Vince Verhei: Following an exchange of punts, Seattle puts together an 80-yard drive that takes four and a half minutes off the clock and ends in a touchdown. The scoring play was a beauty. On third-and-5 in the red zone, they run a scissors concept with Hollister in the slot to the left, running a corner route and crossing David Moore, who's running a post. The slot defender, anticipating a throw to the sticks, tried to undercut the route, but Hollister ran into the end zone instead, and Wilson hit him with a beauty of a floater for six points. That makes it 20-9 with less than three minutes to go.

It's hard to explain just how schizophrenic it has been to watch this Seahawks team develop in 2020. They started off like the Dick Vermeil Chiefs, where the first team to 35 points won. Then there was a midseason slump where you never knew what you were going to get, but for the past month or so they have really become a classic Pete Carroll Seahawks team: an excellent defense paired with a start-and-stop offense reliant on big runs and play-action shots. The starting defenders they have added in the past year and a half -- Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams, Carlos Dunlap, D.J. Reed -- have really meshed into a solid unit. It'll be interesting to see the difference between their overall DVOA and their weighted numbers.

Scott Spratt: Here's video of the Reynolds play:

Vince Verhei: The 15-yard penalty was on McVay for running onto the field to protest that Reynolds gave himself up. He was right, of course, but you can't run onto the field to protest.

Vince Verhei: Since I looked it up to answer somebody else's question: the NFL's 94-page rulebook states in part that a play is dead:

(d) when a runner declares himself down by:
(1) falling to the ground, or kneeling, and clearly making no immediate effort to advance.

Aaron Schatz: I mean, I think it was pretty clear that he was putting the ball on the ground so they could hurry up and line up for the next play, yes?

Carl Yedor: Seattle gets the ball back with about seven and a half minutes left and drains about five minutes of that time remaining en route to a Jacob Hollister touchdown on a slot fade that was sprung free by a rub route concept. Jason Myers hits the PAT to push Seattle's lead to 20-9.

Seattle then essentially just has to hold on with the Rams having three clock stoppages at their disposal (including the two-minute warning) when something incredibly bizarre happens. Goff hits Josh Reynolds over the middle of the field for a first down, and Reynolds puts the ball down so instantaneously without ever being touched that the refs initially rule it Seattle's ball when Bobby Wagner scoops up the ball. This sends Sean McVay into a fit of rage, resulting in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. After conferring, the refs decide that Reynolds was in fact giving himself up, but the McVay penalty still applies, meaning the Rams end up almost exactly where they were at the start of the play with a fresh set of downs. I think part of what caused the confusion was the speed at which Reynolds hit the ground and then gave himself up since he didn't even pause (just rolling over and putting the ball down immediately). The Rams then throw incomplete twice before Goff takes a sack at the two-minute warning, bringing up fourth down. The Rams' fourth-down play is well short of the marker, and Seattle takes over, putting this one to bed barring an absolute miracle.

From Seattle's perspective, it had to be encouraging to see Wilson unafraid to take shots down the field and make plays against a legitimately good defense (the Jets do not count). He has been under duress a lot today thanks to the Rams pass rush, but he was still willing to stick in there and deliver balls down the field in a way we haven't really seen as much of lately. After his turnover-fest at midseason, it seemed like Wilson was caught between trying to make plays down the field and not turn the ball over anymore, which I'm sure the coaching staff was drilling into his head over and over again. He seemed to find that balance today even though the offense as a whole was not incredibly successful.

Vince Verhei: Yes, Aaron, but before the rule change a few years ago (I don't remember exactly when) that would have been a fumble.

Dave Bernreuther: I didn't have the sound on that game, but yes, I thought that was the case.

Vince, with regard to your schizophrenia/weighted DVOA comments -- as a fan, how much confidence does this all give you? If Wilson hadn't fallen from his MVP heights, would you be thrilled heading into January?

Defense-wise, they have the feel of a typical Bill Belichick Patriots team, rounding into form in December in time for the most important time of year ... but those Patriots teams never had a corresponding lull on the opposite side of the ball, aside from maybe last year (and last year, their defense was strong throughout, and if I recall correctly, their turnover luck was way better early on). There's still probably no reason to fear for their offense right now, because Russ is still an MVP-caliber player, there's an outside shot at the No. 1 seed, and even though they have fallen off from the Vermeil style you mention, they're still fourth in offensive DVOA and sixth in weighted offense DVOA.

I picked them to win it all, of course, so it's perfectly fair to ask if I'm just looking for affirmation here...

Vincent Verhei: Dave, that's honestly a very good question. We have always found full-season numbers to be more predictive than weighted or half-season stats. This late-year defensive upswing may, in fact, be a small-sample mirage. And it's very hard to be confident about a team that lost to Colt McCoy of all people.

But then ... have you looked at the other playoff teams in the NFC? ALL of these teams have had major weaknesses or slumps they have battled through all year. All of them look vulnerable. It seems like a crapshoot to me.

In fact, you could say the same for the AFC, where Pittsburgh has been floundering for weeks until the second half today, and Kansas City keeps living on the edge of a knife from game to game. Would it shock anyone if, say, Baltimore wins the seventh seed, then knocks out the Steelers and Chiefs in back-to-back weeks?

Bryan Knowles: To add injury to insult, Jared Goff broke his thumb, presumably when he slammed his hand into a Seahawks helmet in the second half. His status for this week's game against the Cardinals is unknown; the Rams miss the playoffs if they lose to Arizona AND the Bears handle the Packers. Their best news might be the fact that the Packers can't clinch the bye week this week and coast against Chicago, because they're suddenly in significant trouble.

Scott Spratt: Goff's passing DVOA by season:

2017: 24.0%
2018: 17.0%
2019: 2.0%
2020: 0.7% (entering today)

I knew he was super inconsistent, but I didn't realize how striking Goff's declining efficiency trend has been.

It's too bad the NFL never has NBA trades. I feel like Goff for Carson Wentz would be fun. From the Eagles' perspective, Goff would be just an $8.6 million dead cap hit after 2022 while Wentz would still be a $15.3 million one. And from the Rams' perspective, maybe Sean McVay could build an offense to work with Wentz's strengths and avoid his weaknesses.

Philadelphia Eagles 17 at Dallas Cowboys 37

Scott Spratt: DeSean Jackson made it back from injured reserve today and is making an immediate impact. This catch just went for 81 yards and put the Eagles up 14-3.

For the full season, the Eagles are 28th in offensive DVOA. But they seem much, much better than that with Jalen Hurts starting and players such as Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, and Jackson finally healthy.

Dave Bernreuther: Coaching malpractice just now by Mike McCarthy.

No, not the fourth-and-goal field goal attempt from the 2 (which was also terrible enough that nothing needs to be said), but in not challenging a bad spot that cost Ezekiel Elliott the touchdown on second down. I can understand why the refs thought he was stopped, as the Eagles looked to have twisted him up at about the 4, but a slow-mo replay -- which I did by hand, since the broadcast never bothered to even mention it, let alone look -- shows pretty clearly that he kept his progress going and extended from his foot on the 2, with the ball extended overhead, clearing the plane of the goal line even after his butt finally touched down with his helmet itself (which was level with the ball at the time) over the plane. Unless there's a new allowance for his towel counting as a body part, in which case he was down around the 4, he was in clearly enough that they could've affirmatively overturned the call.

McCarthy did nothing and kicked a 20-yard field goal to go from trailing by a score to trailing by a score. Even if you acknowledge that maybe it's not in their best interests long-term to actually win this game, that's just horrible.

And it's just as bad that Kenny Albert and Jonathan Vilma didn't even mention it, honestly.

Bryan Knowles: The one good game in the late window, so far, is this one, for the rights to clean up Washington's mess.

For the record (assuming Washington doesn't come back), if Philadelphia wins, then the Washington-Philly game in Week 17 is for the NFC East title, and I presume that would get flexed into Sunday Night Football. Hopefully, Alex Smith would be back for that one.

If Dallas wins -- and they just scored a touchdown to take a 20-17 lead -- then we'd have an awkward situation, where Washington still wins the division by beating the Eagles, but the Giants/Cowboys winner would end up as champs should Washington fall again. In that scenario, I have NO idea what would get flexed to Sunday Night -- there aren't any games left that are important without being affected by any other games. I guess Bills-Dolphins would be the most logical, but maybe they just eschew any SNF action if the Cowboys win this one.

Bryan Knowles: The Cowboys are determined to keep their hopes alive and give us the most awkward Week 17 schedule imaginable. They just hit CeeDee Lamb on a little wheel route, which turned into a 52-yard touchdown as no Philly defender could really catch him. It's now a 27-17 Cowboys lead, and I give up on trying to predict how this division will go.

Tennessee Titans at Green Bay Packers

Scott Spratt: Is anything more exciting than Derrick Henry in a blizzard?

Dave Bernreuther: I wasn't alive for it, but the first thing that came to mind to answer that was "Earl Campbell in a blizzard," which is fitting, I suppose. Some Titans fans may remember a previous snow game (in mid-October!) in which Tom Brady and the Pats went in for halftime hot chocolates up 45-0 and thus answer "no," but I think most of us are as eager for this one as you are, especially since it's a game between two division leaders. Even as a Colts fan that'll be rooting hard for the Packers, I also secretly kind of hope we get to see Henry go off for (another) 200-yard game in the powder.

I'd never actually WANT to be a ticket-holder in an outdoor December weather game, but this one feels like one of the bigger missed opportunities, spectator-wise, we've had this year due to COVID. At least we all have HDTV to make it feel like we're there, only warmer. Which is better, really.

Not that Mike Vrabel could ever compete with things like Tom Coughlin's rosy Lambeau cheeks or anything ... but I'm hoping that maybe he'll emerge from the tunnel with a newly grown moustache as good as last year's and by the second quarter it'll have some fresh snowfall on it and give us a comparably awesome photo opp.

Scott Spratt: Hey, Al Michaels is doing tonight's game. I thought he had worked out a deal to make Mike Tirico do all the really cold ones (which would have been brilliant).

Bryan Knowles: Snow game? Snow game!

The first play from scrimmage, the refs have trouble finding the 40-yard line. Snow games are the best.

Bryan Knowles: Were the Titans rushing three on every play of the opening drive? It felt like that, at any rate. Whatever they were doing, it didn't work -- Green Bay marched down the field easily, just slicing and dicing the defense on their way to an Aaron Rodgers-to-Davante Adams touchdown pass. That's about as simple as things get. The extra point is missed, so it's just a 6-0 Green Bay lead, but I'm not sure the Titans' strategy of "stand back and cover" is going to work tonight.

Tom Gower: The Titans are in the horrible position where they can't rush the passer with four, and they don't have the cover players to match up in man coverage if they bring pressure. You saw this in Mike Vrabel's one season as defensive coordinator, but his tendency has been to break all strategic decisions in favor of not allowing big plays. Rushing three is the realistic adaptation of the inability to pressure without blitzing.

Scott Spratt: The Titans just punted from the Packers' 32-yard line into the end zone for a net of a sweet 12 yards. Snow games are great.

Bryan Knowles: The Packers have faced two third downs so far this game. The first saw Rashaan Evans commit an illegal hands to the face penalty (away from the play, I might add), gifting Green Bay a new set of downs The second saw Rodgers hit Equanimeous St. Brown for a 21-yard touchdown. The Titans look, appropriately, like they're on ice skates.

It's still just 12-0, because the missed extra point enticed the Packers to go for two after their second touchdown, and they were stuffed. At least the Titans found one stop.

Bryan Knowles: I'm not sure even a snow game is going to keep my attention in this one, I'm afraid. Ryan Tannehill is picked off by Darnell Savage, the Packers match right down the field, and it's 19-0 now. I'm putting the over/under on Titans stops of Rodgers at 1.5.

Scott Spratt: Ugh, it's such a letdown, Bryan. The Titans seem to be handling the snow about as well as me and every other southerner.

Bryan Knowles: Well, it's nice for the Titans to show up to the game.

The Titans DID finally stop the Packers, forcing a field goal attempt. At first, it looked like a huge swing -- the Titans blocked it and returned it all the way into the red zone. But it was called back by an offsides which was ... well, let's be polite and say "borderline." That moved fourth-and-8 to fourth-and-3, and the Packers decided to go for it ... but Wyatt Ray managed to sack Rodgers. That's two stops of Rodgers on one series; so I guess they hit the "over."

The field position was much worse, of course, but that just meant the ensuing Titans drive was that much longer. A.J. Brown and Jonnu Smith got going, and what should have been at least a 22-0 Packers lead is now just 19-7, Green Bay. Some signs of life before the half is all we could ask for.

Vincent Verhei: Dots on Rodgers' wacky scramble play. Note that Green Bay has no receivers within 20 yards of the line of scrimmage ... and the one guy you can see actually goes deeper as Rodgers takes off.

Tom Gower: Halftime. Packers lead 19-7. They were up 19-0 less than five minutes into the second quarter, so things are relatively looking up for the Titans after their second positive drive on offense made it to the end zone after Vrabel's wimpy punt on fourth-and-7 from the Packers 32 on their first drive. The scoring drive featured the Titans at their Titan-est, keeping a fullback and two tight ends on the field on the first couple plays after the two-minute warning. Derrick Henry hasn't been finding the sort of running room most people expected coming into this game, but he did that drive find the known weak links in the Packers secondary.

On the other side of the ball, it's just the Titans are a bad defense that doesn't have many answers and the Packers are a good offense with the ability to attack defenses. Aside from the target for Robert Tonyan in the end zone, the Titans didn't do much to challenge Rodgers as he completed 15 of 18 passes, and taking away big plays doesn't matter much when the other team is good enough to execute with consistency. Hoping the Packers run the ball too much without great consistent effectiveness, and then getting off the field on third down, feels like their best chances for a stop.

Scott Spratt: While we wait through halftime to see if the Titans can make a game of this in the second half, I wanted to ask the staff: now that the Packers have all but locked up the No. 1 seed, where do you stand currently on the team's Day 1 and 2 draft picks this season? Are those future-looking picks forgivable because the Packers are as good as they are? Do you believe the Jordan Love pick made Aaron Rodgers better this year than he would have been otherwise? Or does the Packers' excellence make the picks more egregious since they failed to optimize the team's short-term title window, and this team could have been even better if the team selected a player such as Patrick Queen or Jeremy Chinn that could realistically have made an immediate impact?

Aaron Schatz: Scott, I definitely would go with "this team would be better if it had used its draft picks on useful players." I understand the value of always drafting a quarterback prospect but the second- and third-round picks (AJ Dillon and Josiah Deguara) haven't done much.

Meanwhile, this game isn't the runaway we thought it would be when it was 19-0. The Titans are getting passes to A.J. Brown and runs by Henry and they just fooled everyone with a read-option and Tannehill went 45 yards on third-and-1 keeping the ball so now we're talking 19-14.

Vincent Verhei: Here's the video of Ryan Tannehill's long touchdown run on a zone read. Packers looked like this was the first time any team ever ran this play -- watch Adrian Amos (31) whip his head around, totally lost.

Scott Spratt: Woah, another snow game feature-or-bug: Aaron Jones definitely stepped out of bounds on his 59-yard run. But no one noticed before the Packers ran another play, and one play after that, Rodger connected with Davante Adams for another touchdown.

Bryan Knowles: Scott, I think the Packers would be happier right now if they had a contributing receiver, defensive lineman, edge rusher, or linebacker from their draft class. Their first three picks have a combined 85 offensive snaps coming into this week, and only Krys Barnes has 200 snaps. That being said, it's hard to argue with immediate results. If the Packers flounder in the playoffs because of their defensive deficiencies, we can point to the lack of effort they made to shore that up in the draft. Until then, they gambled that they had a competitive team in 2020 and could draft for the future -- so far, so good.

Drafting a running back in the second round still has me shaking my head, though.

Bryan Knowles: Of course, I scoff at the second round pick as AJ Dillon is having the best game of his career -- 14 carries, 92 yards and a touchdown just now which makes things 33-14 and likely ends any chance the Titans had of making a game of this one.

Scott Spratt: Haha, apparently you're making fun of the next Derrick Henry, Bryan. Won't you feel silly when Dillon runs for 50 touchdowns over the next four-plus years.

Bryan Knowles: Only if he runs for 50 more than undrafted rookie James Robinson, Scott!

Comments

145 comments, Last at 31 Dec 2020, 12:47pm

1 Jeff Ulbrich 2021 Head Coach…

Jeff Ulbrich 2021 Head Coach candidate? 

Quick Reads will speak, but it could be the worst Mahomes performance ever.

 

Regarding Week 17 Sunday Night: Cardinals @ Rams is also a Win-In/Lose-Out situation for Arizona, if I am not mistaken.

And a way more interesting match-up than Squirrels@Eagles.

2 5 Seattle NFC West championships in 11 years --

--and incredibly, the clinching game is, like, the same game.  Under Pete Carroll, all facing the Rams, all in Seattle, and the Rams all scored less than ten points:

2010: Seahawks 16 Rams 6

2013: Seahawks 27 Rams 9

2014: Seahawks 20 Rams 6

2016: Seahawks 24 Rams 3

2020: Seahawks 20 Rams 9

In five games, the Rams only scored one touchdown.

13 Are you pointing out what a…

Are you pointing out what a weird coincidence it is, or are you praising Carroll’s defense? If it’s the latter, shutting down a Steve Spagnulo Rams team, and 3 Jeff Fischer Rams teams isn’t that hard.  In fairness, the Seahawks defense has been playing a lot better lately, even if they haven’t exactly faced a murder’s row of quarterbacks.

45 just

a weird coincidence.

(Though I think the Seahawks defense is now very underrated -- at least by the media.)

 

3 Can We Move On, People?

OK-- i will state- again-- for the record that DVOA proved to be accurate about the 2019 Packers. A decidedly flawed team whose true skill belied their 13-3 record. But when they win a game so thoroughly (I cringe when I type those words wondering just how much credit DVOA will actually give them) over an opponent seemingly so worthy (not the Vikings; not the Lions-- who NO and TB beat up on) I wish just once this esteemed site would give us more than "Damn, i was hoping for more from wonderful Derrick in the snow; the refs blew the Jones OB call; Tennessee is playing a lot better now; and can we stick it to the GB front office again for blowing the two top picks in the draft?"

They are 25-6 under LaFleur-- outside of Seifert, who was handed the best team in the league-- it is the best two year start for a coach in the history of the league. Rodgers is having one of the greatest post 35 QB years in the history of the league. Adams may be the best WR in the league. They just ran for over 200, passed for over 200, and throttled a superb offense in the Titans. And the commentariat at FO gives them none of that. Well, only one way to get any respect or praise is to keep winning. And by the way, "all but locked up the 1 seed" doesn't give anywhere near enough credit for the Bears. Not an easy out next week at Soldier Field. Maybe that game will hold some attention around this site. 

4 Can We Move On, People?

OK-- i will state- again-- for the record that DVOA proved to be accurate about the 2019 Packers. A decidedly flawed team whose true skill belied their 13-3 record. But when they win a game so thoroughly (I cringe when I type those words wondering just how much credit DVOA will actually give them) over an opponent seemingly so worthy (not the Vikings; not the Lions-- who NO and TB beat up on) I wish just once this esteemed site would give us more than "Damn, i was hoping for more from wonderful Derrick in the snow; the refs blew the Jones OB call; Tennessee is playing a lot better now; and can we stick it to the GB front office again for blowing the two top picks in the draft?"

They are 25-6 under LaFleur-- outside of Seifert, who was handed the best team in the league-- it is the best two year start for a coach in the history of the league. Rodgers is having one of the greatest post 35 QB years in the history of the league. Adams may be the best WR in the league. They just ran for over 200, passed for over 200, and throttled a superb offense in the Titans. And the commentariat at FO gives them none of that. Well, only one way to get any respect or praise is to keep winning. And by the way, "all but locked up the 1 seed" doesn't give anywhere near enough credit for the Bears. Not an easy out next week at Soldier Field. Maybe that game will hold some attention around this site. 

6 Move on with movin' on

I think it's you that needs to move on. "This site" gives the Packers as much attention as any team, DVOA gives them the credit they deserve, and you're forgetting that the staff watch Packers games as neutrals. Please give us a break from the whining, it's been a decade now, if you want the kind of affirmation you're on about there are a hundred homer Packer fansites of varying degrees of tedium, I reckon you'd find favor there.

The Packers scored 40 points on eight drives. The scoreline tells us what we need to know about the offensive performance. The o-line did great against an odd and not very smart defensive strategy, and Adams had some beautiful routes and catches. It was a fine win. But without delving into the film there isn't much more to say, and I think the FO team did a good job drawing out some talking points from a blowout which was much less interesting for neutrals than it was for us.

34 Smugness isn't a Condition for a GB fan

4th and 18 v the Eagles; Favre home in the 2007 NFC Championship game vs the Giants; 15-1 in 2011; the blown lead in the 2014 NFC title game; Rodgers' much ballyhooed but real decline in the previous 5 years.  We know what has happened and can still. Because they could wrap up the bye and the # 1 seed is no guarantee of anything-- it just makes the Packers one of a handful of teams with a decent chance of winning the SB.

My objection-- and it isn't limited to this site-- is to what Colin Cowherd to his credit just called the "coastal eyerollers"-- all those smart asses on both coasts on this site, the Ringer and various other locale who never saw this season coming. Who continue to act as if the GB front office are rubes despite the very possible fact of the impetus Love's draft had on Rodgers; the ability Dillon showed last night when both Jones and Williams are about to become free agents, the constant harping on the lack of a #1 draft choice receiver when Jennings, Driver, Nelson, Jones, Cobb and Finley were hardly lacking in quality and Adams is the best of the bunch and very possibly on a HOF trajectory. The willful ignorance of LeFleur in any of the top 5 or even top 10 coaching rankings when several of those ranked ahead of him have not won a title and none of them have produced the record he has in just two seasons. And which no coach-- repeat no coach--other than George Seifert succeeding Walsh with Montana and then Young has produced in the history of the league.

it may sound like a homer's lament and i suppose because it is the team i follow and understand best, and that is always the easy rejoinder. But in this case it goes to something deeper. Gudekeinst and LaFleur and Rodgers for that matter are smarter than me, you and the supposed experts on this site and other places who in their smugness and arrogance think differently. They are. Cowherd just acknowledged it. Here instead of any of that self-awareness we get-- as reaction to one of the most impressive performances of any team in the league this year on the eve of the playoffs-- what? Snarkiness. Disappointment about the opposition star's poor night with almost no acknowledgment that the other team had something to do with that. My fundamental belief is that most of FO's contributors are locked into a mindset about the Packers that simply can't allow for the fact they might just be one of the two best teams in the sport. And that they have made a series of very sound decisions the past two years, beginning with the firing of McCarthy, hiring of LeFleur and their drafts in both 2019 and 2020. 

So humor not me but one of the anchor franchises of this league-- in a little city stuck in NE wisconsin-- which just so happens to have produced more titles than any other in its history. Give them some credit-- however grudging.... They probably will lose at some point in the playoffs because that is the truth for all 14 of the teams which will qualify. But it doesn't mean they aren't capable, talented and smart.

36 My biggest objection with…

My biggest objection with you is that you are criticizing people who have the guts to make a prediction without you yourself making one. Its all fun to roast models that get it wrong without you stating your contrarian views up front. Because otherwise, this all screams of after the fact.

Second. Dvoa painted the Packers as a weak 13-3 team. From that it made a prediction. There's nothing ridiculous about why the forecast came out the way it did or why the so called "coastal elites" felt that way. I'm not sure it had anything to do with Wisconsin.

Finally, I maintain that drafting Love was a mistake and I certainly do not believe they did it to 'light a fire under Rodgers". I think it speaks poorly of Rodgers' character if he requires this as motivation to be great. One would assume he too likes winning MVPs and being a highly regarded QB.

The Packers are not unique btw. There have been lots of teams that looked like paper tigers one year and then dramatically improved the next. The Jim Harbaugh 49ers are a good example.

39 Sunday night

We always have fewer Audibles comments on Sunday night games than on day games. There are a couple of reasons.

1) I'm distracted by putting together DVOA from the day.

2) We're all tired.

3) Collinsworth is really good and ends up saying a lot of the things we would otherwise be saying to each other.

Add in that it was a blowout, and I think there's good reason we didn't pay attention to Green Bay much this week.

46 No explanation was needed

In reply to by Aaron Schatz

This site does a lot of great work that is made freely available to anyone.  If folks complain that is on them for being both ungrateful and rude.

 

 

49 Collinsworth?

In reply to by Aaron Schatz

Please, Aaron, say it ain't so.

I find that he enters the game with a pre-set script (I suppose they all do) and he forces the action of the game to fit his story-line whether it makes sense or not.  Also, just about any player he praises in a game is held up to be essentially tops in the league. The hyperbole sometimes reaches WTF proportions.

And Michaels is just getting old.  We all do, and it's horrible to have 20 million people watching it happen, but that's not a terribly strong booth IMO.

53 He used to be really good at…

In reply to by Bobman

He used to be really good at first, but then he started to understand the role that was expected of him and toned it down (dumbed it down). I still think he's one of the better ones out there.

Speaking of which, I need to get this out of my chest: Every time Daryl Johnston opens his mouth I can't help but picture Louis Darnell from the Get Shorty TV show. It's uncanny how similar their voices are. And it makes listening to him a lot more entertaining. He might also be good, but I can't tell because Louis freaking Darnell.

69 I really dislike…

I really dislike Collinsworth, who always acts like he's the smartest guy in the room.  I particularly hate his "X is starting do do Y now" comments when it happens one time.  One time is not a trend.

I also think NBC should note that Collinsworth owns PFF every time they plug a PFF stat.

Al is like late-career Vin Scully or Pat Summerall (sp?):  once great but no one wants to admit they are past their prime.  The networks always plug the starts, whether announcers or players.  The biggest example is when a team adds a once-great player and the announcers act like he's still great.

52 "both coasts"? "coastal eyerollers"?

Certainly not calling out Football Outsiders here, but Seattle is very used to being not taken seriously (or just not written about at all) in media-sports-world, and from here, Green Bay (and Dallas) gets the media spotlight very much ahead of Seattle.  It's more like the East Coast with Los Angeles, San Francisco, Texas, and Chicago ahead of everybody else.

I mean, I'm astonished reading a Green Bay fan saying they get not enough attention.  Dallas and Green Bay, in my observation (and opinion) gets more copy written about them than anybody else (except New York, media's hometown).

63 well

If the great lakes are media-coastal, and presumably the Gulf of Mexico, the non-coastal NFL cities are few (Dallas, Pittsburgh, Denver, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, Phoenix, Nashville....)

75 Las Vegas. Cincinnati…

In reply to by scraps

Las Vegas. Cincinnati.

Philly, Baltimore, DC, and Detroit? Sorry, rivers.

Philly and Baltimore are at least on tidal rivers.

38 I don't want to speak for…

I don't want to speak for the other writers, but the fact that it was the late game on a holiday weekend, after a Saturday of three games as well, and it became uncompetitive fairly early... maybe just meant that people watched more passively. Or, in my case, fell asleep.

I'm actually really upset about having done so. I love Rodgers and these Packers. I even own two pairs of Packers shorts and a matching watch. I picked Seattle, but outside of just rooting to be right, I'm 100% behind a Packers Super Bowl run here, with a Brady @ Lambeau playoff classic along the way.

5 Packers draft question

I don't think the Packers have the top seed "all but locked up" at all. Chicago will have everything to play for. I expect a close game.

Chicago has a better defense than the Titans, which isn't saying much. Even so, if the Pack scores TDs on 50% rather than 75% of its drives, it shouldn't matter. For the first time in a decade, Green Bay looks like a well coached team. It had zero penalties last night, which is impressive even accounting for a not-great showing by the refs. The scripted drives are great. And when the Packers build an early lead they can hide their weaknesses: from last night's game you wouldn't know the punt unit is appalling because the Packers never punted.

But I agree with Aaron and Bryan that the 2020 draft was a missed opportunity. I've been carping about the Dillon pick since it was made, and his contribution last night doesn't change that. A 2nd round running back has to fill a pressing need on a very complete team (eg Edwards Helaire in KC) or be a Kamara/Dalvin Cook type talent. Jordan Love was a gamble worth taking, I think, for the reasons outlined, but there are holes on this team which were visible or foreseeable in the offseason, and which the front office ignored. They may still be its downfall.

7 Packers player development

looks to be something of a positive.  Multiple young guys have taken a step forward this season such as Keke, Gary and Tonyan.  Combining sensible drafting WITH player development obviously is the optimal mix but if a team can help players become contributors that counts. 

 

 

122 Is "player development" is…

Is "player development" to coaching staffs what "intangibles" is to QBs? I'm not sure it's measurable, or sustainable, or even that it exists. I think there are a few NFL environments in which players, en masse, do not develop as they ought to, but I can't make much of a case for the opposite. It's true that Gary has progressed from where he was last year, but he's still behind the curve for what the Packers might have expected from a #12 overall pick nearing the end of his second season. Preston Smith has declined; Elgton Jenkins and Allen Lazard have flatlined a bit; and the other young receivers and DBs are up and down. Maybe they're as good as they can be, maybe not.

Plus we've seen time and again that a new regime's breakout comes in the second or third seasons. The Packers have pulled off a mini-rebuild without cratering, which is super impressive, but as McVey, Shanahan Jr, Pederson and others are discovering, it's what happens in the years following the breakout that really tests a coaching staff. Plugging new players into an existing scheme seems more difficult than developing both at the same time. LaFleur is a promising coach. Let's see how he handles adversity.

123 I see player development as a key element

Player development can be a key element in why some players "bust" and others turn out to be "steals" in the draft. Most fans view players coming into the league as talent. And yes, they have talent. But that talent has to be incorporated into a team which is broadly recognized as coaching. But developing that talent also is an element of coaching.

Measuring it would be difficult but possible. One would have to look at position groups over time by team or position coach. As evidence I would point to anywhere Munchak is coaching and the Steelers' wide receiver group. Despite Tomlin's defensive coach history he was a receiver in college and I think he has insight into what it takes to be successful.

127 mirage

But there are so many other factors to consider, injuries being the obvious one. And opportunities to see the field ‚Äď let's not pretend that NFL coaches systematically put their best players into the lineup. Plus, what's the baseline for 'successful' development? We haven't yet worked out how to separate, say, receivers from QB from protection. Would the Packers' WRs besides Davante Adams look half as 'developed' if Tim Boyle was throwing to them? Would they seem so developed if Adams wasn't drawing the opponent's best defenders away from them?

Adams is a good example for this because his numbers were poor in his first couple of seasons. Then once Jordy Nelson departed he became a very solid #1 starter. And in the last year and a half, he has been an elite, all-pro type player. Was he very unready for the pros? Or did he underachieve for the first part of his career? Did he become this dominant because of coaching, and if so, why are the other Packers' receivers still just barely average?

Adams has very clearly developed every aspect of his game, and he's likely surpassed all eight of the receivers drafted before him in that deep 2014 class. Why him? I guess we could call the answer to that "player development", but I just don't think it gets us any closer to understanding what that involves.

128 Good takes

In reply to by ammek

It's really hard to tell.

Yesterday I saw a take that LaFleur can make Dillon like he "made" Derrick Henry. I wanted to say Henrys breakout was after Lafleur and that Lafleur struggled to tell the difference between Henry and Dion Lewis (who was cut this offseason by the Titans) but I knew the group I'd be telling wouldnt listen/understand so I didnt lol

But regarding Adams development, weren't his main developers fired?

129 But there are so many other…

In reply to by ammek

But there are so many other factors to consider

That a measurement is complicated is not evidence that a phenomena does not exist.

8 Worth pointing out that by BackCAST

Dillon was the #2 back in the draft, but the 6th back taken. I think the pick is defensible, though still surprising (and not what I would have done, particularly because he likely could have been had later). Trading up to take Love is not defensible, on the other hand. If he had fallen to them, mayyyyyyybe, but trading up in general is a losing strategy, and doing so for a player that won't become a starter for multiple seasons is bizarre.

10 FWIW

one of the Ron Wolf principles (?) is that if you are drafting for a qb when you need one you will likely fail.  Ron imprinted that on Thompson who obviously employed it with success in drafting 12.  And I suspect BG was thinking along the same lines after several (for him anyway) pedestrian Rodgers seasons.

 

Not supportive of the pick.  Just trying to explain what I think was the mindset.

12 Agreed

In reply to by big10freak

that was clearly the thought process, but the Rodgers-Love comparison ends there. Rodgers was talked about as #1 overall, was the second QB taken, and fell right to Packers. Whatever Love is, he isn't that. He wasn't even that good his last year at Utah State. I won't pretend I knew Rodgers would be this good when he was drafted, and I don't know how good Love will be either, but the odds are against him.

Edit: went back to look at what QBASE thought of Love, and it was unimpressed, so there's that, too.

17 I've wondered if another…

In reply to by Dave from DC

I've wondered if another driver for a high QB draftee was a better immediate-term backup in case Rodgers got injured--thinking specifically of how the team looked during the broken collarbone season. Normally if that were the Packers' concern, they'd trade for a solid backup, but they may have thought Rodgers's relatively middling play over the past season or two was age-related and therefore they needed to look both short- and long-term.

30 I've thought about this too…

I've thought about this too. If you're the Packers GM and it's draft time, you need to invest resources in a backup for Rodgers and you need to put an eye towards replacing him if his decline over the past few seasons was real. In theory, picking a QB in the back half of the first round is a decent way to kill both birds with one stone. The problems are that trading up to do so was foolish, Jordan Love wasn't super highly-regarded, and Rodgers' contract makes him unmovable for two or three years. If Love is good, you're throwing away the most valuable years of his career, when he is cheap. If Love is bad (and he is currently behind someone called Tim Boyle on the depth chart, so...), then that's obviously a huge problem in terms of opportunity cost this year and on the field in future years.

44 This.

But, in a vacuum, I personally think backup QB is a frivolously sought after position but that's another story. 

64 If you wanted a backup QB…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

If you wanted a backup QB this year, Andy Dalton, Jamies Winston and Marcus Mariota were freely available; all players with solid track records or significant unfulfilled promise. Spending a first round pick on a QB you don’t expect/need to start any time soon is a fairly egregious waste of resources. 

74 You need enough time to know…

You need enough time to know if your guy is your guy before he has to be your guy.

Your take is exactly the wrong one.

Pretty much every premier guy right now sat for someone. You are arguing every one of those guys was a wasted pick.

86 What?!?!?!?

Rodgers and Mahomes sat for a year.  Brady, Cousins and Fitzpatrick were late round picks who obviously were going to be bench bound for the start of their careers.

Every other positive-DYAR QB in 2020 - Allen, Tannehill, Watson, Rivers, Wilson, Carr, Brees, Murray, Herbert, Stafford, Mayfield, Goff, Prescott, Jackson, Tua, Ben, Burrow, Minshew, Trubisky - was a year-1, if not day-1 starter.

Yes, the 2 that sat behind someone for at least a year (12 years apart!) are 1 & 2 but that is not "pretty much every premier guy".

130 Brees sat his first year…

In reply to by tjb

Brees sat his first year. Rivers sat for two behind Brees, who was actually released in order to promote Rivers.

A few guys started early by accident. Roethlisberger and Prescott were thrown into it early due to injuries. Brady and Jackson were mid-season injury replacements. Minshew, too, although he may just be less terrible on a black-hole of a team. Wilson was drafted to be a QB2, but was just a ton better than Flynn.

The argument was that drafting a QB2 is a mistake in all circumstances. Just a casual perusal of HOF-bound QBs indicates that argument is idiocy. More of these guys were bench jockeys as rookies than were immediate starters.

131 Out of date

"A few guys started early by accident" is entirely the point. They came in unprepared and still shined. Same applies to Herbert. Burrow was automatically QB1. Tua came in halfway through and who knows where he'd be if he had started earlier and gotten some development out of the way early. 

132 Spending a first round pick…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Spending a first round pick on a QB you don’t expect/need to start any time soon is a fairly egregious waste of resources. 

No early drafted QB should ever sit even one game is the argument I'm pushing back on. Essentially all of our likely Hall guys were drafted with the plan to sit early. Most actually did. A few got battlefield promotions.

82 Another good point.

Add in Cam Newton unless he only wanted the starting job. Or even *gulp* Foles.

Just an odd time pick a QB when you're already locked into your starter. And when you spend a 1st (AND 4th) there is no chance of it being "QB factory" like the Eagles (who addressed a need 1st then got a (better might I add without detracting) QB prospect). At least when Wolf was flipping in the 90s they were day 3 picks. There's almost 0% chance you could get equivalent value if Love isnt it. They boxed themselves into a meh prospect that they'll have their work cut out for them to drastically improve on his flaws.

Week by week it astounds me that they thought it was time to move on from Rodgers. Yeah he was in slump but they see him every day. Isnt that the go to excuse to when we question them? Why didnt they see this coming then? Crazy to me

18 Just chiming in that it’s…

In reply to by Dave from DC

Just chiming in that it’s amazing to me that the writers at this site of all places are slamming a team that DIDNT draft people that helped them immediately this year. Draft picks on good teams *should* look toward the future, aka a replacement for the QB on the decline (at the time of the pick) and a replacement RB so they don’t have to give their current RB a big contract. Everyone has bought into the narrative that all the WRs available to GB were surefire rookie stars, and that GB made a mistake by not drafting one. It is as unnuanced as analysis gets.

23 Going by the latest Scramble…

Going by the latest Scramble for the Ball, expecting any rookie in the defensive front seven not named Chase Young to produce for the Packers this year was a fools errand.  Some of the rookie corners and safeties did well,  so perhaps they could have been chosen instead of Dillon, but at least Dillon is now producing.  The real gripes should be directed towards the Love pick, but we'll see if the Packers can get him turned around in a couple of years.  

It appears to me the Packers realized how tough this year would be for rookies, and decided to draft long-term (Love, Dillon replacing running backs that are free agents).  That strategy has not backfired in terms of sacrificing a year of Rodgers' window, so the Packers braintrust got that right at least.

70 I guess if we're continuing…

I guess if we're continuing to beat the dead horse that is the Packers' draft into the ground, I'll just point out: even if you set the Love pick completely aside, selecting a RB and a TE/FB-type piece in rounds 2 and 3 are still low-value picks *even if* you adjust your thought process to not worry about 2020 contributions and only consider long-term impact. WR, CB and pass rusher are all still going to be long-term needs for the Packers in 2021 and beyond. No matter what time horizon you choose to look at it, they almost certainly would have been better served using a higher pick on one of those positions and searching for RB/TE later on.

Anyway, I don't want to gripe any more about the Pack because they looked awesome last night, and frankly their coaching staff and front office have been doing great work. Nobody in the NFL bats 1.000, and right now they've put themselves in their best position to make a run at the Super Bowl since 2014.

81 I would argue that QB is…

I would argue that QB is different from other positions, both because of the huge amount of value a good QB on a rookie contract provides relative to what you must pay him, and because a backup QB is functionally useless except due to injury (whereas a rookie backup at other positions might provide value on special teams, certain packages of plays, etc).

Whatever Love turns out to be, he's now one year into his rookie contract and one year closer to getting paid real money if he's a starter-caliber QB. The way Rodgers is looking, barring serious injury it seems probable Love wouldn't be the starter in GB until, what, 2023 at the very earliest? Now, if he'd been taken in the middle rounds, they'd have a decent shot of flipping him for a pick roughly comparable to what they used (a la any number of Patriots backups). I don't foresee anyone offering a 1st round pick for Love in the next couple of years, should they decide that Rodgers is going to continue to be the man in GB for the foreseeable future.

IMHO, in today's NFL the only way it makes sense to draft a QB in the 1st round and sit him for even 1 season is if you're facing a real end-of-the-line scenario with your starter . I would argue that it never makes sense to draft a 1st round QB and sit him for more than 1 season. I get that Rodgers was not guaranteed to have the MVP-level season he ended up having in 2020, but neither was he old enough nor bad enough to reasonably think that they'd expect to part ways with him after 2020.

73 The Reid-era Chiefs have…

The Reid-era Chiefs have played this both ways:  get a competent QB (Smith) who has a ceiling but allows you to consistently reach the playoffs; take a shot on a once-in-a-lifetime talent who might flame out (Mahomes) when you already have the competent guy.

Smith cost 2 2nd rd picks; Mahomes 2 1sts and a 3rd.

Speaking as a Chiefs fan, going 53-27 in the Smith-era beat the hell out of the 38-74 mess of the post-Vermeil years.

Smith doesn't get a lot of love around here, but he played pretty well.  Obviously Mahomes is light years better.  But the real key to their success over the last 8 years has been the hiring of Reid.

 

33 The Packers turned their…

The Packers turned their first four picks in the draft (including the fourth rounder they traded as part of the Jordan Love package) into three guys who were no better than third on their respective depth charts at the end of training camp. The situation hasn't really improved since then. I'm not sure Love has yet been active on the gameday roster. Dillon had a tiny snap share and didn't do much with it when he, Jones, and Williams were all healthy. Deguara was clearly on the offensive gameplan until he got hurt, which is at least something. But who knows where the team would be right now if they'd invested the two Jordan Love picks into guys who at least had a path to playing time? Football almost always rewards depth, especially late in the season. An extra couple of NFL-caliber players might make a huge difference in the next few weeks. Who can say? But the argument made at the time of these picks - that the opportunity cost was *really high* for a good team - looks stronger now than it did then.

42 Process over results

Dillon in the 2nd or James Robinson in UDFA?

But as with all things, this one game proves the pick was the correct one and he can literally do nothing the rest of his contract and it'll have been worth it. Unless he doesnt show anything the first year, like Gary, then it's just wait. Never give up the opportunity to take victory laps and ignore the thought behind it.

One day we'll be able to discuss beyond that. 

Also is there any actual evidence bigger backs are better in December?

88 Franchise QBs are found in UDFA all the time

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

What are the implications of this statement?

It would seem to me, its suggesting that a franchise is better off spending all of their draft picks everywhere but the quarterback and then rolling with the undrafted qb derby until you find your Romo or Warner. 

If you take this view seriously, how many years and how many GMS and coaches are going to get fired before you find that player? Cuz for every Tony Romo or Kurt Warner, there are a legion of unplayable quarterbacks that will lead to horrible offense every single week

112 I'd say we don't have enough…

I'd say we don't have enough data to know.

A lot of guys have had long and successful careers as CFL QBs who never even got a shot at the NFL.  Not quickly, it took most of them years to become good enough to shine, but once they did, they could have stepped into NFL jobs and done fine.  

The challenge is two-fold.  One is getting the UDFA QB the experience they need to become NFL-starter ready, because bouncing around practice squads just doesn't cut it.  The second is having a GM/coaching tandem who's okay with bringing in a new QB whose upside is "fine", and who are willing to build a team around devoting minimum salary cap to a QB.

 

113 Really?

You'd rather scour the UDFA QBs rather than the RBs?

I think the past 80 yeas of pro football is sufficient, if it's not for you...

134 I didn't say I'd rather…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I didn't say I'd rather scour UDFA QBs rather than RBs.  My point was that we don't have sufficient data to know whether scouring UDFA QBs is viable or not.  I suspect it's more viable than common belief suggests, but until a few teams start systematically trying that approach, we won't know for sure.

135 That was the original point

But if there's not sufficient enough data then just about everyone is doing HORRIBLE at their job. Because UDFA QBs are signed all the time. Doesn't mean they deserve as much time as drafted ones though. That goes for any position really. 

136 In statistics we call this a…

In statistics we call this a sampling bias. Basically the idea is as follows: everyone gives first round quarterbacks every opportunity to prove they are the long-term solution. Player like Sam darnold for example or Josh Allen is afforded multiple years of growth to prove that he can evolve into a winning player. An undrafted free agent is probably given four games at the most before he is discarded because that's what he is.

 

the success stories of undrafted free agent quarterbacks usually involves some kind of immediate success right out of the gate. anything less and they're probably never given another shot.

Even someone like Tom Brady for example. If he played the way he did during his first super bowl I, but was on a dramatically worse team, he probably never gets a chance to develop and we never hear about him.

138 Yeah, that's basically my…

Yeah, that's basically my point.  QBs aren't like other positions, they take time to develop, and practice squad doesn't cut it.  We don't really know whether committing to bringing in a group of UDFAs in the offseason, and then running with the best 3 of them for a season or two, would be cheaper/more effective than gambling on a single high draft pick or overpaying for a mediocre known quantity veteran, because we don't have enough data points of NFL teams trying it. 

I've seen enough guys who never got NFL shots become very competent QBs in the CFL to make me suspect the nature of the NFL's approach to QB development misses a lot of possible talent.  On CFL squads they get the time the NFL doesn't provide, ride the bench for a few years usually, and eventually some of them work out and others don't.  Obviously, there's a lot of talent difference between the CFL and NFL, but I never saw any of last year's starting QBs in the CFL bouncing passes to receivers the way Newton has this year, or struggling to run their own offense like Haskins has.  The CFL guys would be low ceiling guys, because they're QBs who couldn't even get practice squad gigs in the NFL.  But take that same approach with the rung of QBs between the high draft pick guys and the ones who go to Canada, and I suspect there's a lot of quality starters who just never got the chance to reach their potential. 

139 "Doesn't mean they deserve as much time as drafted ones though."

There's usually a reason they go undrafted. Because they weren't good at the lower level(s). They've already been vetted. Hard to be bad at a lower level than good at the next. You cant give every guy that walks through the building 5 years to develop. 

And specifically Brady, he wasn't given much of a chance his rookie year but he was at least drafted, and not in the last round too. But when he was given a shot to start the next year he was above average in Y/A, AY/A, ANY/A, CMP%, INT% and Passer Rating. Just below average in SACK% which resulted in NY/A too. That performance is why he kept his job. He did play well. Would be weird to yank him after that, especially when they weren't picking high enough because he didnt get in the way of winning the SB. Unless youre specifically talking about the SB and the way he played in that one game? But that doesnt make sense either since he out played Warner by not throwing any picks compared to Warners two, which helped his overall passer rating be higher. So I definitely dont think even a bad team would (should) throw him out. 

He was "just" a 6th rounder so you can temper expectations, especially after 2 years have tolled, and they realized that and selected Rohan Davey in the 4th actually. But they kept both of em for 3 years. Then Davey never played again in a regular season game. That's fine. By then Brady had shown he was worth it for sure..

UDFAs dont need that time unless they show as such. Which they usually dont. It's ok to expect them to never amount to much with their low ceilings. Every single team did the same, around 7 times each. Include your own. It's one thing for one team to fall in love with a guy sometime in the draft but every team passing on a guy says a lot more (even if they get it wrong occasionally). So let there be "bias." Don't let not meeting a baseline of performance let you think UDFAs "just need to develop." Because what's the alternative? Letting them develop? For how long? And there's your inherent, never ending cycle of "sampling bias" as nobody is given the same chance for a variety of reasons (some right, some wrong). But in general their allotted time is shorter because they're simply not good and not meeting a baseline of performance. Dont need to make it more complicated. 

141 I'd give your argument more…

I'd give your argument more credence if there was evidence to back it up, but there isn't.

Again, the only pool of QBs I know of that have been given time to develop after being judged "not good enough" in the NFL are CFL QBs.  Of those, I'm only aware of 4 later being given a chance to try out for a job in the NFL:  Warren Moon, Dieter Brock, Doug Flutie, and Jeff Garcia.

That's it, as far as I'm aware.  There's no large pool of evidence that after having been developed, CFL QBs can't make NFL rosters.  The tiny sample size that were given a shot say otherwise (though I'd exclude Moon from that list, because hopefully we're beyond the issues that caused him to go to Canada).

As for the "not good enough at lower levels" argument, usually that amounts to a perceived weakness or two, but those can be overcome with experience.  Let's use 2020 Roethlisberger as an example.  With his physical skills right now, would he be drafted coming out of college?  No way.  With his experience, can he be an effective QB ?  Yes, because there's more to being an effective QB than the factors that cause QBs to be drafted in the first round. 

So, no, I totally don't buy the idea that UDFA QBs can't become NFL starters and don't need time to develop unless they can demonstrate immediate success.  I do believe that NFL roster rules make it difficult to develop QBs, but the bigger issue I think is no GM has tried to solve a QB need that way.

142 There isn't?

What evidence do you have on the contrary?

The only pool you can think of is the CFL? You forget AAF stud PJ Walker not being as good as Teddy this year? You think he deserves more time for the sake of "development?" 

The pool is there you just don't want to see how shallow it is. And that shallow pool deserves less play time then the big regular sized one, for adults.

Dude, it's 2020. QBs are given EVERYTHING way before they hit the NFL. They HAVE to hit a certain baseline of "
"experience" ALREADY before declaring for the draft. So, no, not all QBs just need experience. That's a bad cop out that lets you hold onto mistakes far too long hoping they randomly break out. The QBs drafted arent drafted just because they run 4.3s. They're drafted because they have a skillset (including "mind" since we keep dancing around it) they think they can work with. Not everyone will be good with experience. Big Ben was good without NFL experience in college and that's why he was drafted high. There's a reason 25 year old Manny Wilkins is a UFA.

The reality is you cant wait for PJ Walker to "develop" when you a better option now WITH a higher ceiling in Teddy AND maybe picking another one up in the draft where they could be picking pretty high. You'll never have the same sized sample because that's not how things work in real time. Even starting a new league (like the AAF) where timelines can all line up (even though goals dont have to be, conundrum), teams LITERALLY have to decide at some point whether to play someone or not, over an offseason of work for new leagues. You have do, have to be better at lower levels and that includes practice. 

If you really wanna see an extended look (how long is that again?) at PJ Walker you're probably fired and no one will care. Unless it's to tank, in which is two starts good enough to tell? No. Two seasons? Two contracts??

143 I don't have evidence to the…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I don't have evidence to the contrary, which has been my whole point.  Your assertion is that it hasn't been tried because it won't work, and that may be true, but until it's actually tried, I'm not convinced.

And I never said that all QBs just need experience.  I'm suggesting that some guys who weren't drafted could, if given the chances that Josh Allen got, for example, have seen similar improvement, not that all guys given such a chance would do so. 

Furthermore, I'm suggesting that at some point, some NFL GM who doesn't have a high draft should try finding their next starting QB by systematically working through the pool of possible QBs who weren't drafted, instead of spending cap space on a free agent QB.  

144 It has been tried

The results just usually aren't good. That's why we only know of the Warners and Romos. 

You're suggesting that a team find a UDFA QB (teams do) AND play them long enough (again how long?) until they prove...they're good (been done) or suck (been done, but it seems you dont think it's long ENOUGH)?

And just because they dont have a high pick there's middle tier QBs, like Brady, that are worth drafting as fliers. But the UDFAs are passed up TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY something times. That says a LOT. Not every reason is correct but over the large swaths there generally are. 

I wanna know how long are you wanting to give every single UDFA QB that walks through the building? Like I would like to know what concrete times you're looking at because it nothing seems like nothing is enough to you which I just cant advocate for in a constantly moving league/business (and you as a GM definitely don't always have that long of time).

If that's what you're suggesting why put in all that work (and it's a lot) when you could just draft one? Or ask yourself why didnt other teams? They learn pretty quickly why. 

I get the sentiment and would agree only if you just (re)signed your guy to a long term contract (you know he's it, no matter where you got him) then spending draft capital on positions to help him and leaving the backup(s) to UDFA (and if you get Romo'd hopefully he Dak's, but then again Dak was drafted and in the 4th, he was unlikely to go undrafted). But to find the guy when you dont have him? Nah fam, don't play around with the most important position like that. Maybe you're in a Big Ben situation where you try to balance future and present by picking Mason Rudolph in the 3rd (supposedly made him mad so watch out for that too) but I can't remember how many years he had left on contract but I dont think it was many since he signed a 2 year extension in April 2019 that expires after 2021. And even then that was a year after Rudolph was drafted (and didn't play) so they kinda already knew what they had annnnnnd when he's gotten on the field we kinda see why they didnt let Ben just expire and make him the future, after Bens injury last year. So yeah, they kinda knew fast (I presume he's still around because he "knows the system" and can come in in a pinch, even though he has a dreadful 2.25 ANY/A this year). Non high QBs are good if you're trying to be proactive but it has to lineup timeline (contract) wise imo (for example unlike GB and Love (and rumors of Lock in the 2nd before the Broncos traded up) they should've, and would go onto (big yikes on Love's part), just let Tim Boyle (a UDFA you've never heard of and will never hear of again, because he's bad) be the backup until he gets too expensive). 

Although, you think the Cards regret trading Rosen? The Dolphins straight up cutting him? The Bucs never calling him up? Nope. And Rosen was the 10th overall pick! You can know fast! How much faster with UDFAs? Boy, quite a bit. 

145 The CAR situation you…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

The CAR situation you mentioned is an interesting one.  5 games in the XFL wasn't much, but it was no doubt more helpful for P.J Walker than practice squad time.

To have Bridgewater available cost CAR $14M in cap space in 2020 and a projected $23M in 2021.  P.J. Walker cost them $685,000 in 2020 and would cost $880,000 in 2021.

Replace Bridgewater with another guy at Walker's paygrade, and you have more than $13M this year and more than $22M next year to invest in other areas of your team.  Would you be better off?

If Walker and the second guy both turn into INT machines, then probably 'no'. (Although since CAR wasn't likely to make the playoffs in 2020, maybe 'yes' because you get a better draft pick).  On the other hand, if Walker showed continual improvement, the way he was when getting playing time in the XFL, then maybe 'yes'.  A lot depends on how much more they're able to improve the rest of their team with the extra money they have to spend on upgrades.

The biggest issue with this approach is that your QB ceiling is likely capped.  But CAR capped their ceiling by bringing in a known quantity veteran, too, they just did so in a more expensive way. 

Bridgewater's almost exactly a middle-of-the-road QB, ranked 16th in DYAR and 17th in DVOA, and his cap usage isn't that egregious, and I'm still not sure he was worth the investment for CAR, given the overall state of their franchise.

9 D. Haskins

D. Haskins maybe worst body language I ever saw form a quarterbakc

 On draft day when he slid a bit hsi facial expressionssuggested he found it funny temas were dumb to pass on hjm. Had ultra cool, laid back look

Then has this same look on sidelines aft r playing crappy. Guy sitting on bench ultra cool like guy trying to seem hard and confident looking at naked women from a distance in nudie bar. Thrn gets lap dance later whiel still beinf cool a(nd then a different type of hard if you know what i mean). 

Haskins gonan be in XFL for San Antonio Pulverizers in a few yeras or Spring Football League for Iowa Tractors if eh does ntk get act in gear

11 I would like to nominate…

In reply to by Raiderjoe

I would like to nominate this comment for quote of the year.  I can’t think of a more concise, accurate, and amusing quote about a player.

55 How prescient you were, raiderjoe

In reply to by Raiderjoe

The Football Team just released Haskins.  Unless another NFL team has a GM who liked Haskins coming into the draft, the Iowa Barnstormers are next.

14 Rodgers Extension

This is the best offense design Rodgers has had to play in. If I were Packer GM Brian Gudekunst, I'd start talking to Rodgers' agent about a 3 or 4 year extension added to next season's final contract year. Rodgers could play at a high level in this offense for 5 more years. I'd chalk up the drafting of Jordan Love as a cost of doing business. That pick may have motivated Rodgers in the offseason (he watched previous seasons, worked on his leg strength and footwork, as importantly, worked on his mental outlook.) At any rate, you don't plan on dumping a top two player at his position a year after finishing in the top two in the MVP race. 

16 I'm shocked by two things: 1…

I'm shocked by two things:

1. That y'all have seen into the future

2. That Week 17 will be so astonishingly similar to Week 16!!

Apologies for such a basic smartass comment, but someone had to point it out.

19 Good week for Miami

Miami somehow pulled out a victory and had just about everyone it needed to lose, lose. One week away from knowing if they can somehow pull off a play off appearance and a top 5 draft pick. So much to watch this late in the season. I'm not used to it.

20 Love the embedded Brazilian…

Love the embedded Brazilian tweets! I'm chuckling to myself at the thought of a Brazilian trying to pronounce "STRIP SACK"; it would sound like "estreepy secky". Is this part of your SEO strategy to drive more Brazilian web traffic? ;-) That's not a bad idea, honestly... Brazil has over 200M people and might have the largest NFL fanbase of any country outside of the USA.

21 Lion-Bucs

What's the opponent adjustment strategy when a team has quit on the season? Is that the defensive equivalent of losing your starting QB or....?

25 That performance killed the…

In reply to by YoHoChecko

That performance killed the Lions' weighted WWOA (Will to Win Over Average). For the purposes of projecting next week's outcome, you probably need to just manually set their DVOA to -LOL%, so the Vikes have a pretty good shot at going out on a high note. C'mon guys, gimme some 7-9 bullshit!

28 Jared Goff, Jimmy G, Kirk…

Jared Goff, Jimmy G, Kirk Cousins, and Baker Mayfield are all roughly similar QBs. They aren't bad and if you put them with a smart coaching staff and good supporting cast, you will get good results. But they are all flawed to such an extent that when things go awry, they aren't capable of overcoming team deficiencies. They are however better than Alex Smith, the vanilla ice cream of quarterbacks.

To me there is a clear difference between them and Wilson, prime Big Ben, prime Philip Rivers, and even Tony Romo - all Hof or near Hof QBs who are better but not all time great.

The conundrum therefore is what do you do with a player like this? 

29 Flawed QBs

In the short term, pair them with a "just having fun out there" backup QB like a Ryan Fitzpatrick who, while not necessarily better, will break plays, scramble, and do other things that might work when Plan A isn't working and points are needed.

In the long term, don't give them giant contracts that will kill your future cap space and make it impossible to keep that good supporting cast around them.

31 Short term: There appears to…

In reply to by Travis

Short term: There appears to be only one Fitz. A guy good enough to win some games but bad enough that he can be had at any time. Can we name any other Fitzmagic's out there?

Long term: The issue is - the agents know you can do a lot worse than their qb. Plus they can sell the upside. So and so is young or a probowler - don't even pretend like you can short change him. Its easy to buck and put a hard line on the contract, but the QB has all the leverage so I don't think it amounts to much. 

 

 

35 Flawed QBs

Short term: It doesn't have to be someone on Fitz's level, just make sure your backup QB isn't just the same type as your regular QB, but worse.  Take a chance on a lottery ticket scrambling and chucking backup rather than Sean Mannion, maybe you can squeeze an extra win or two out of it.

Long term: I have no idea what you do if you sign Jared Goff to a $33 million a year contract unless you think your coach is going to continue to be a genius outpacing the rest of the league.

37 Before this year, one would…

Before this year, one would have probably included Carson Wentz on this list. Derek Carr and Matt Stafford probably also belong.

The league's individual decision-makers seem to mostly reach the same conclusion when posed with the conundrum: you pay them. Even guys like this are hard to find and expensive to acquire, so you'd rather do that than wander in the woods with your various Trubiskys or Mariotas. It's rare when a guy like this hits the open market (Cousins being the only recent exception I can think of).

Is that smart strategy? It seems to be smart in terms of GMs keeping their jobs, which is probably why they keep doing it. It seems to improve the team's floor. Would the team be better off if the GM pursued a higher variance strategy (i.e. jettisoning a Goff type to pursue the QB Lottery)? I think that depends on whether you think being a 10-win team is valuable or if you only derive value from being a contender. I would argue that being decent and playing competitive football in January is better than blowing up a good thing in hopes of being dominant in some future, unspecified year, but I understand that there is a strain of fandom that disagrees with me there.

40 Yea I agree with this. It's…

Yea I agree with this. It's why I called it the conundrum.

 

The Rams have the coach. The lions do not and so you see the two lives they live in. One could win the SB but probably won't. The other just got demolished at home in humiliating fashion and is ready for the off-season.

In some ways, these QBs are coach killers. They tantalize enough that you constantly try to change the furniture and the scenery to capture that magic moment. You can do a lot worse, but to my eye, the mean outcome is a lot of 8 win seasons and mostly disappointment.

84 Can we name it the Flacco conundrum?

Can you dump a guy after winning a Super Bowl?  Goff made it to the Super Bowl, Wentz got his team in position, where his team won.  Now what?

Its been done before, that being a mediocre QB leading his team to 9-12 win seasons on his rookie contract because the rest of his team is excellent (defense, special teams, offensive line), winning playoff games a Super Bowl, and then striking it rich.  The Ravens after Flacco got paid went:

2013:  8-8

2014  10-6 (playoffs)

2015   5-11 

2016:  8-8

2017   9-7

No playoffs in 4 of 5 years then:

2018  4-5 Joe Flacco injured, enter Lamar Jackson 6-1 making a 10-6 playoff team.

The Rams resume is similar under Goff yet shorter, time will tell.

The Eagles resume is similar until this year and I must believe that the end is near for Wentz.

Harbaugh survived all of this, but without the Lamar Jackson bailout, he may not still be the Ravens coach.  Drafting a franchise QB by moving up to get the last pick of the first round was the exit door to the Flacco conundrum, but that is a tough exit door to find.

Doug Pederson seems like an awfully good coach to be nearing the exit door, Hurts may buy him time, but how many will buy this team as a turnaround in 1-2 years? 

I agree that we must add Derrick Carr and Matthew Stafford to this list.  Gruden is locked in, so he will not be going anywhere, but the Raiders seem to be going nowhere also.  The Lions never find an exit door to the Flacco conundrum, simply an exit door/revolving door for their coaches.

Here is another name:   Teddy Bridgewater (short term contract this has built in exit door)

And going back and still playing and declining are Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton (now a backup, but he won a lot of games for Bengals to be a one and done playoff QB).

And then adding to your point, there are worse QB's to be had than all mentioned by you, myself and others in between.  You dump Dalton, become the worst team in football and draft Joe Burrow.  Is he the answer?  If yes,  Cincinnati is out of the conundrum.  If no, Cincinnati will long for the days of being a marginal playoff team.

87 I don't think there's a…

I don't think there's a clean exit door to this situation. 

Drafting a first-round quarterback, even if he was picked last in the first round, is making a clear statement. Like it or not short of that player becoming an MVP, you've made a decision to move on.

However even the flaco situation was made super obvious once he started playing like a horrible player. The situations I'm describing are really the ones the Lions the Raiders and the Browns and the Rams find themselves in and really the question they should be asking is, "is the possibility of finding someone better worth the risk of being horrible for four to five years".

 

Right now I'm not really sure what the Browns should do with Baker Mayfield. I guess you pick up his fifth year option, but is he worth committing major dollars to. DeShaun Watson is a no-brainer. Mitch trubisky to everyone but the bears apparently is a no-brainer. In between it gets harder to answer.

94 Actually, Haskins being…

Actually, Haskins being released made me realize we've seen it done. The Redskins, not intentionally, were starring at this exact situation and did not end up continuing with Cousins.

The aftermath was trading for Smith, being a decent team but nothing interesting and then drafting a bust. If Haskins had panned out, I guess we would have applauded the move but he didn't and he shows just how ugly it can get. Instead, this phony division possibility notwithstanding, they suck and need a qb and have to try again. 

 

100 Agreed the dreaded risk/reward question

"Is the possibility of finding someone better worth the risk of being horrible for four to five years"  So tough to answer, on the one hand, Brees, Rodgers, Brady, Roethlisberger make the playoffs virtually every year.  Peyton Manning in recent past adds to this list.  Mahomes looks ready to join the list.  On the other hand, who wants to risk becoming the Jets, the Browns of the past two decades, the Raiders since 2002?  Many young fans are still waiting to live to see a Bengals playoff win.  The Bills until the last two years can be added to the decades of nowhere list.  What if 4-5 years becomes 15-20?

I'll take these one by one.

Rams, The issue becomes that if you stay with what is now a mediocre young QB does he fall into sub-mediocre like Flacco?  As mentioned in the article, Goff is declining every year.  This I feel is the toughest of all the calls among the teams that you mentioned.  Despite the Rams last two weeks, they have had a good season.  I spoke with a Rams fan on this site a few weeks ago, at that point were it not for the Rams poor special teams they would have been number 2 in DVOA, with approx +15 offense and -15 defense.  The offense was performing even with Goff's inconsistent play.  I would begrudgingly stay the course.

As for the Browns, their new management seems to have their act together.  I think they will get the most out of Mayfield which is more than prior regimes.  Of course I can not define what "the most" is for Mayfield.  So stay the course for another year and see where you are.

Carr has the Raiders in the old Buffalo Bills Ryan Fitzpatrick sub mediocre territory.  Based upon DVOA you can make an argument that the Raiders are currently a bad team that has overperformed to get their 7 or 8 win season.  If they win Sunday, their 8-8 record will be their best record of the past four years.  So I would try to start over.  

Stafford, is not as young as the others and the organization is a dumpster fire.  I think they might as well move on, there are a lot of Lions fans on here, I assume someone will chime in, I would love to hear some opinions.  I imagine that this team is not much more exciting than the 0-16 Lions, or the 24 consecutive road losses Lions (3 seasons in a row without a road win).  They are on the road to nowhere.  Here I think that the risk of being horrible for four to five years is worth it, because if they stay the course they may be horrible for 4-5 years or more anyway.

Finally the Texans.  DeShaun Watson may be having the best season for a 4-11 team ever.  So Miami gets a great first and second round pick for this performance.  O'Brien left this team a disaster.  They can not improve much through the draft this year, and then will not be able to pay veterans as much when Watson's cap hit explodes.  They are in deep trouble no matter what they do.  The defense is bad, the running game is historically bad.

I know that you say that Watson is a no brainer.  This is the one where we probably disagree.  How do you see the Texans improving?  What do you think of a trade and thus doing a complete reboot?

101 "I know that you say that…

"I know that you say that Watson is a no brainer.  This is the one where we probably disagree.  How do you see the Texans improving?  What do you think of a trade and thus doing a complete reboot?"

Well, keep in mind they decided to sign Watson before the Hopkins lunacy. But lets take this question as posed for the current situation. If the Texans could get out of the Watson contract and trade him, should they? 

I would respond with a defiant No. I get asked by casual fans if QBs are overrated or underrated. And I say both. The way they are underrated is the fact that unlike a lot of other positions, QBs have much more control over their level of play and their longevity both in terms of how long their primes last and how long they last as effective players is totally unmatched by any other position besides kicker. Bottom line, the Texans can waste the next 4 years of Watson's prime but he will still be good at the end of(assuming he doesn't get hurt). 

The right strategy is to stink badly for those next couple years, wait for your balance sheet and draft depletion to clear and then go. The qb position affords that kind of time. 

107 Obviously you think Watson is a great QB

I'll agree with your line of reasoning if Watson truly is a great QB.  Even a very good QB.  He is certainly young enough to improve.  This is a unique situation, I can not think of a team in recent memory that has a QB with a DVOA this high, and has so little to work with.  Or for that matter, that he can rise above the lack of talent that he has on the team in general, to perform at the level that he has this year.

My biggest concerns with Watson is that he is a sack machine and has not been "elite."  That makes it really tough to wait 4 years.  Advanced analytics favor that the sack is on the QB more so than the line (Wentz/Hurts is a good example).

Using my argument against myself, the reboot may lead to 15-20 years of bad football.  On the other hand, if you wait to fill in the talent around Watson, and he declines a bit, it seems tough to have anything more than an 8-10 win team.

In general, I do not like the Houston position now, or going forward.

111 I guess I am less…

I guess I am less pessimistic about the Texans than you are. I think Watson is in that tier just below elite. He's somewhere in the prime Rivers, Big Ben, Wilson tier. That group can win you a sb without needing all this talent. They just need more than the elite tier. But honestly, Watson is the baseline type you absolutely hope to land when you draft a qb. Now you are set for 10 years at least barring injury.

I think Houston's immediate future is bleak, but I don't think its hopeless. Do a blood letting this offseason and eat the enormous cap hit. Then you are clear in year 2 with a fresh balance sheet. You have your picks after this draft and so that will be clear as well. By year 3, you should be ok. I think its a better job than the Jets or Lions personally. 

115 JJ Watt

While talking of Houston, I might as well mention JJ Watt.  I've never felt a guy was more of a class act while throwing around obscenities than while listening to his postgame rant.  I know that he is a class act, he has done so much for Houston and youth sports programs (reading online, I am over 1000 miles away).  He is a must keep in this organization even as he ages and his play declines.  He knows who is not giving 100 percent and I agree with him, you get paid a healthy amount of money to play a game, yes, it is dangerous, but you get a nice vacation after this Sunday, at least go out there and give a better effort than allowing over 500 yards to the Bengals, who despite beating Pittsburgh could not move the ball at all.  As a fan, I can accept that my team is not always good (Baltimore Orioles, Washington Wizards), but I can not accept a lack of effort.  I know that he had some specific names in mind, maybe he will become a coach in the future at some level.

This may be a bad team, but no team should be bad enough to allow the Bengals to move the ball at will.  If Brandon Allen played yesterday's version of the Houston defense every week, there would have been no need to draft Joe Burrow.

And yes, despite the current state of affairs, I would take this job over the Jets or Lions.

140 "Stafford, is not as young…

"Stafford, is not as young as the others and the organization is a dumpster fire.  I think they might as well move on, there are a lot of Lions fans on here, I assume someone will chime in, I would love to hear some opinions"

They should definitely plan to move on.  The Lions from 2011-2017, while not being wildly successfully, were a lot of fun to watch.  Second only the the Sanders era when you're ranking post-merger Lions teams (the bar is very low, but 4 winning seasons and 3 playoff appearances is about as good as it gets for Detroit).  Then Matt Patricia came along and just wrecked them (just as bad as O' Brien wrecked the Texans, but over a longer period of time).  They took a playoff contending roster and made it both expensive and bad.  This is going to be a multi-year rebuild, at best. 

So to answer your question, I think the Lions should draft a quarterback next season.  They should either trade Stafford for another pick, or just keep him as a bridge if they can't find a trade partner.

103 "Mitch trubisky to everyone…

"Mitch trubisky to everyone but the bears apparently is a no-brainer."

I'm honestly confused by this statement - are you saying he's a no-brainer decision to pick up his 5th year option, or to reject it?  Since you said "to everyone but the Bears", who didn't pick up his 5th year option, I assume you think he was worthy of it?

I go back and forth on him.  I think he's probably an Alex Smith, or Kirk Cousins lite QB - someone who can succeed with the right personnel around him, but who won't ever elevate a middling cast to be a top offense.  As a Bears fan, if they could go back in time and pick up his option, I can see that argument, since he's better than anything else they can realistically have at QB next year.  But at the time of the decision, last spring, the consensus on Trubisky was that he was going nowhere and the Bears would be foolish not to move on.  Has that much really changed in a year?

109 Mitch is a no brainer in the…

Mitch is a no brainer in the opposite direction. I would not sign him to a long term deal. I don't think Mitch is any good and I think this win streak is a disaster to the Bears long term future if it fools them into thinking that he is. Sure, he could turn it around; I am not putting his odds of failure at 100 percent. I'd be very surprised if he did though. 

125 Frankly it's insulting to…

Frankly it's insulting to Kirk Cousins to mention him in the same breath as Trubisky. Mitch has had one season of play above replacement level in his career (when he was paired with an historically great defense). Cousins has been a top half QB every year since 2015, including multiple years in the top 10 by DYAR. Cousins is definitely a QB you can win with; sadly he is currently watching the Vikings defense disintegrate around him. 

Alex Smith has had a crazy career in terms of the varying levels of coaching he has been paired with. But in terms of what might be possible with Trubisky, he's probably a better comparison. 

As the above poster noted, I'd be alarmed at the prospect of keeping Trubisky about. Look past the absurdly easy schedule he has faced, and he is still nothing more than a replacement level player. 

133 Regarding Cousins, you're…

Regarding Cousins, you're right.  I did say "Cousins lite", which I do see could be read as "Cousins-like".  I think Cousins is probably at the top end of the category of QBs that won't elevate a weak offense, but will put up good numbers with a good cast, while Trubisky is at the bottom end.  Guys like Smith, Garoppolo, and Bridgewater are in the muddled middle of that group.

98 Carr is not the Problem

Carr is an above average NFL QB who can get hot and through well.

The Raiders problem is their defense.  The talent might be there, but the indiscipline, missed tackles, and generally sloppy play is what has been killing them.  Carr neither failed to defend the sidelines on the last pass, nor ran on the field to grab FitzMagic’s face mask. 

99 I haven't seen a lot of Carr…

I haven't seen a lot of Carr over the years but I read the Rivers article a few weeks ago. Then I saw the game and it was ridiculous how spot on Rivers was. When the play developed as planned Carr was very good. As soon as things broke down, he was unable to adjust.

I admit I haven't seen enough, it just seemed uncanny how clear cut it seemed to be in this game.

120 This. Carr would look really…

This.

Carr would look really good on the Rams right now. He‚Äôs not a great QB or anything but he‚Äôs above the marginal tier. Cousins may be similar‚ÄĒbut I don‚Äôt have a really strong opinion about this. Rather have them than Goff or presumably Baker (although he may have a little development left).

71 In defense of vanilla

(response to 28)

Vanilla is a wonderful flavor, especially if you get some of the really high quality beans from Madagascar or areas of Mexico.  Ice cream made with excellent vanilla is just amazing.  (Made with artificial flavoring or cheap stuff, it isn't anything special, but neither is cheap ice cream of any flavor).  Vanilla should not be used as a descriptor meaning "average, run-of-the-mill, mediocre," assuming that's what you were suggesting about Alex Smith. 

76 I am a foodie and someone…

I am a foodie and someone who enjoys cooking. I agree...vanilla ice cream when done properly, is sublime. However, the most common incarnations of vanilla ice cream are indeed, "average, run-of-the-mill, mediocre". Sometimes you get an Andy Reid level execution from your Vanilla ice cream. But most of the time, you get the Mike Singletary version. 

85 In sarcastic defense of Alex Smith flavored vanilla

If he can come back on Sunday he will be trying to do a multitude of things:

1.  Lead a 3rd different team to a division title (has anyone done this before)?

2.  Win the Football Outsiders ALEX Championship (currently Cam Newton is the only one ahead with lower ALEX among 200 attempt QB's).  Bombs away tonight, against Buffalo Cam, I want Alex Smith to be the ALEX 2020 champion.  

119 The way things appear to me…

The way things appear to me is that Goff is the deficiency that the rest of the Rams team can't overcome. With their defense and talent on offense, they should be leading the NFC West, not struggling to get a wild card slot.

32 Two of the three games I saw…

Two of the three games I saw on Sunday were interesting in different ways. 

Colts Steelers was painful as a fan, but predictable in outcome. The Steelers offense finally threw downfield. And it wasn't like the Colts blew their coverages, they just got beat. In today's NFL, that's all you can really hope for from a defense - be in position. The receiver DB mismatch might be the biggest reason why NFL offenses have exploded over the years.

On offense - Rivers is what he is at this point. On schedule, it works. When you are put in a bind, its a slog and probably not going to end well. And it didn't. Oh and their o line was hurt against a tough front and Rivers played like he expected pressure in his lap every time he snapped the ball. 

Rams Seahawks was a fun defensive battle. I could not believe I was watching the same Seahawks Offense and Defense that I saw 8 weeks earlier. It was like watching two completely different teams. Maybe that's a function of the imploding Rams? Hard to say honestly. 

Seahawks offense looked a lot like the old Seahawks offense. Like a car with a manual transmission whose driver doesn't know how to drive stick. It sputters a lot. It has moments of revving into high gear and you get a burst. But ultimately it coughs its way to your final destination, even if the results aren't pretty.

 

And finally. Packers - Titans. Blah. Rodgers and Adams great. Tanny not so much. Titans defense was horrible as usual.

 

 

41 Seahawks offense looked a…

Seahawks offense looked a lot like the old Seahawks offense. Like a car with a manual transmission whose driver doesn't know how to drive stick. It sputters a lot. It has moments of revving into high gear and you get a burst. But ultimately it coughs its way to your final destination, even if the results aren't pretty.

 

Applause for this one. Bravo, sir.

60 Colts OL vs Steelers

Although you note Rivers was expecting pressure on every snap (wisely), I was yelling at my TV that he was holding it too long, as if he didn't respect that pressure enough.  

There was apparently nobody to dump the ball to, so just throw it away rather than take a sack or fling it and pray. Isn't that what they talk about as part of the rookie learning curve--"you can't do it all in this league like you did in college. Learn when to throw it away and come back next play." Given his limited mobility, this should be especially true.

My real bone of contention in the second half was play calling.  I haven't seen a run/pass breakdown, but all their losses--aside from aligning with Anthony Castonzo doctor visits--also seem to feature a run/pass imbalance that highlights Rivers's limitations.  I DID see a 12/12 R/P graphic on screen approaching halftime, and assume it was closer to 60/40 in favor of passing in the second half.  Um, football 101:  when your run game has been working, and you have a lead, isn't it generally advisable to control the ball, bleed the clock, and limit the downside risks of passing? I am surely over-simplifying, but something was off there.  Maybe PIT was disguising their coverage and Phil thought he saw opportunity that disappeared post-snap. Since he's new in the league, and all, this is understandable....

And the refs.  I thought at least one of the deep DPIs was questionable (in part because the WR extended his arm in a push off), but Claypool hip-checking (accidentally or not) a CB with the ball in the air and that CB subsequently flubbing a catchable INT seemed a particularly egregious no-call.

Oh, also, I am a big fan of being unpredictable--vary your snap counts just to keep the other guys honest, blitz once in a while for the same reason, etc.  Indy needed more pressure on Ben, especially when PIT started targeting deep (i.e. the intermediate zone might not miss a blitzer who would otherwise be in coverage). It worked early... Or show the threat of a blitz to have him pass the short crossers that weren't netting anything in the first half (and the threat is meaningless unless it's backed up once in a while).

Back tot eh OL issues, Colts need to address LT and general OL depth in the offseason. And maybe QB (Dakota Prescott). The almost-retired Castonzo is ludicrously important to their success and while he signed for two years IIRC, he's been in and out a few times this year, so starting on his replacement is vital. In the Howard Mudd years, the OL had quality backups who seemed to play multiple spots. When the starting five are all out there, the team can beat anybody.  Problem is, this is a bit of a down year for them and they've had some (thankfully small) injuries and one guy out has been very difficult to overcome.

 

102 Having their only decent…

Having their only decent backup tackle go on IR a month ago was a pretty big blow. When your best 4 tackles are out, that's going to be a problem. Like I don't even know their names at this point so I'll just use numbers. #4 wasn't very good in this game and even Clark (#3) is a pretty huge dropoff from Castonzo. They made some interior line picks that have worked out, but their tackle picks haven't paid dividends in quite a while. 

Howard Mudd is a legendary coach who you could give any 5 linemen in the league who are willing to work hard and he could make them a competitive line. I wish I would have understood just how good he was at the time.

I will also say it's underreported that the Steelers deep passing based comeback started approximately when Willis went out and they put in a 3rd string safety (Wilson). I'm not sure it's that simple as it's harder to pick on a safety compared to a corner, but it's interesting.

79 I like Rivera, not as much…

I like Rivera, not as much as one not-seen-lately poster, but I think he's a good coach.  Hindsight is 20-20, but he really set back his "change the culture" message by not cutting Haskins last week after the was-it-was-it-not-a-strip-club party.  Now it just looks like you get cut when you suck on the field but it's okay to screw around Mon-Sat if you play well enough on Sunday.

80 I miss Morganja! Wonder…

I miss Morganja! Wonder where he is. Maybe Sheldon Adelson's crew didn't like him spreading the truth, so they swept in and Jimmy Hoffa'ed him. Dammit!

I sort of agree with you, yet in the end, most industries have an "do as you wish as long as you get your shit done" mentality, which makes sense. Think of all the nutjobs who have excelled over the years despite problematic behavior (Moss, Owens, AB, Diggs, Incognito). Teams are willing to tolerate a player's bullshit as long as their performance justifies the headaches they bring. Clearly, Dwayne did not, so he's more easily disposable, but it's tough for a team to cut an elite player with behavioral issues. Plus, no one wants to admit their 1st round QB was a complete flop.

105 I take a slightly different…

I take a slightly different view.  I think that giving Haskins a chance to show he was sorry for the off-field stuff and would deliver for the team was fair.  

Then instead he showed that he's checked out on the team, and was shown the door.

I think the players will respect the timing of the decision.

48 Raider Joe!

Raider Joe with the gods-eye view!

51 During the night game NBC…

During the night game NBC twice put up "next gen" stats and included passer rating which is the farthest from next generation as it gets. This just captures what is wrong with mainstream NFL commentators, they have heard of these new fangled stats but don't take the time to understand them and prefer their old tropes of run-to-win and Winnnsss, ....

57 I think it speaks worse of…

I think it speaks worse of the fans than the commentators. I think Collinsworth knows quite well how flawed and misleading passer rating is. But guess what? Passer Rating neatly correlates with fantasy points so it sticks. There are lots and lots of people who will say that Lamar Jackson had the greatest qb season of all time. 

61 Raiders-Dolphins

I'm surprised that FO's commentary here suggests the Raiders made the right move in running down the clock and kicking the field goal. I hope there's some kind of follow-up because it seems like a well-suited situation for the kind of analytics that FO does and I was aghast at both the decision to forego the TD and the bad defensive scheme afterward.

66 I initially felt that way -…

In reply to by MaineRaider

I initially felt that way - that scoring the TD was a better play - and then I remembered that it was the Raiders' defense. That sounds like snark, but if they blew a coverage with 20 seconds left, how spectacularly could they have flamed out with over a minute left? 

78 FG is the obvious superior…

FG is the obvious superior play, run clock down under 20 secs, they have no timeouts to stop the clock. Just need the Safety playing cover-2 to cover a sideline -  which they HAVE to run to get yards and get OOB.

96 I think the one obvious…

I think the one obvious mistake by the Raiders was when they had third and goal from the 1 with about a minute to go, and didn't try to score a touchdown. I think the Dolphins were much more likely to get a FG with 20 seconds left than get a TD with 50 seconds left.

Obviously, the calculus is different if the Raiders could have kicked the FG with no time left on the clock, but that wasn't an option.

92 I would love to see the analytics too but I know the better play

In reply to by MaineRaider

The clock kill is the correct play, probably by a substantial margin.  Any mediocre QB can lead a 75 yard drive in 70 seconds.  Conveniently we can use Ryan Fitzpatrick as our example of a mediocre QB.

But with 20 seconds, you must:

1.  Get a long play and

2.  Get out of bounds to stop the clock or

3.  Get a defensive penalty to stop the clock and maybe get extra yardage

The Raiders used the "hat trick" defense, giving up all 3.  This is really hard to do.  Cover 2 defense does not mean cover two receivers and leave the guy on the sideline wide open.

77 Iggles

You'd think the Eagles offense would be a lot better with Mailata getting the nod at LT finally and Seumalo back at LG, Sanders, Ertz and Goedert all healthy, Reagor, Alshon, and DeSean all back. But it's not. Hurts isn't very good. Last two games he has 5 fumbles, 2 INTs and a horrible safety. In 3 starts they've scored a total of 16 points in the second half. He missed a wide-open WR post TD for the second week in a row and I mean WIDE-open. He makes bad decisions as to scrambing instead of throwing dumpoffs to Sanders/TEs for first downs. 

Their two opening scores went like this: 1) Sanders gets 6 touches and scores a TD, Hurts has 2 nice runs. 2) DeSean roasts the CB and the S covers the wrong guy, is wide-open and runs it in from there - Hurts completes the pass but any competent NFL backup would have with max protect blocking, a 1 play 'drive'. Rest of the game: 3 points, 3 turnovers by Hurts.

They surprised a NO team that probably didn't take the Eagles seriously and there was no tape on Hurts to speak of. Now there's plenty of tape, and even bad Defenses like DAL know you have to put a spy on him so he can't run for 10 whenever and also when he's rolling out have that spy get up on him so he doesn't have a 100% clean look downfield. Once teams do that -- Hurts can't get the Eagles into the endzone. Even vs NO their only 2nd half score came on a short field after a turnover by the Saints. 

Let's look at the Eagles H2s under Wentz with a worse OL, and injuries to all of the skill players listed above for most of the games: 17 vs SF in a win, 15 v Pit, 28 v Balt, 12 in comeback win over NYG, 16 in win over DAL, 14 v NYG, 17 at CLE, 11 v SEA. 

Sanders missed H2 of the Balt game with injury and the next 3 games. Ertz left the Balt game with injury and missed the next 7 weeks. Goedert got hurt v Cinci, missed 4 more weeks, got hurt in his return v DAL and then missed another week. Mailata didn't start 6 games. Seumalo missed 8-9 games. Reagor missed 5 games early and week 9. Alshon didn't have a catch until week 12, DeSean is always hurt. You can't win games starting Boston Scott, Richard Rodgers, Ward, JJAW, Hightower & Fulghim at the skill positions! Not even with Pat Mahomes. Especially not with a horrible O-Line. 

Could Hurts have scored more than 2 TDs vs the defenses of Baltimore, Pitt, Cleveland missing all of those guys in the second half? Absolutely not.

Trade him for a high draft pick, and draft a WR, OL, [and CB] in the first two rounds to make things easier for Carson. WR core of, say, Reagor, Devonta Smith, Ward, Hightower/Watkins, Sanders at RB, Goedert/Ertz at TE, Mailata, Seumalo, Kelce, Brooks, Lane J, with another Day 2 OL, and Dillard as backups. That's an offense that, maybe with a new HC or OC, can do some damage with better playcalling [and health]. One that doesn't get the QB buried 15-20x a game. One with explosiveness down the field. One that doesn't have to rely on Boston Scott and Greg Ward to win multiple weeks for you behind a trash OL with Herbig, Pryor, washed-up Peters, Jamon Brown, Driscoll, et al. 

I've watched da Birds for over 4 decades and this is the 2nd worst OL we've had for a season since the Ron Solt OL-era was getting Randall sacked 92x a year [sure a few of those were on him but you get the point].

89 How high a pick do you expect for Hurts?

You mention a flaw, put a spy on him and he can't get the Eagles into the end zone.  He absolutely could not get two more TD's vs the defenses of Baltimore, Pitt, Cleveland.  Well of course, two extra TD's per game is approximately an extra 220 points per season.

He was the 53rd pick in the draft, after next week he will be done with one year of his rookie deal, leaving 3 years since he was not a first round pick.  No matter what he does next week, the sample size is too small to buy into anything.  

A rookie QB is not like a bottle of fine wine.  Let it sit on the rack and it does not get more valuable with age.  Now you have opened the bottle and taken a sip.  

How high a pick do you think that the Eagles can get?

90 QB challenge trade!

Wentz for Goff may sound like an ‚ÄúNBA trade‚ÄĚ but would be similar to Ken Stabler for Dan Pastorini from back in the day,¬†which ended poorly for both of them (but worked out well¬†for Jim Plunkett). It would involve two bicoastal teams though so I‚Äôm probably giving it too much attention.