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

Audibles at the Line: Week 17

Tennessee Titans RB Derrick Henry
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.

Pittsburgh Steelers 22 at Cleveland Browns 24

Bryan Knowles: A bit of an odd scheduling decision from the NFL this week. The only thing that will definitely get decided in the early window is the race for the second seed in the AFC, with both the Bills and Steelers getting their games out of the way early. Of course, without a bye week on tap, that's not a particularly meaningful matchup. You could make an argument that the No. 2 seed still matters in the NFC this year, guaranteeing you miss Tom Brady and the Bucs, but in the AFC, it's all much of a muchness.

The Steelers are resting their starters; it looks like Josh Allen and company are going to at least start against Miami. I think I wouldn't let Josh Allen or Ben Roethlisberger anywhere near the field, considering the specific situation.

Bryan Knowles: The Steelers backups (the Ironers?) picked up a first down but fizzled out, having to punt away to the Browns. Still, they had pinned Cleveland inside their own 20, so there are worse outcomes, right?

Well, enter Nick Chubb. A few plays into the drive, Chubb unleashes a 47-yard touchdown run to give them the lead, vaulting them over the Dolphins and into the No. 6 seed at the moment. Cleveland wins and they're in; they're probably ecstatic that the Steelers are opting to rest.

Rivers McCown: The Chubb run was outstanding and showed off his upper-level vision -- he stuttered Minkah Fitzpatrick out of position near the sideline after he got past his blockers, and ran right past him back to the field after the setup.

Scott Spratt: I was getting excited when the Browns left their offense on the field for a fourth-and-4 from their 30-yard line. But turns out they were just hard-counting and trying to get the Steelers to jump offsides -- which they didn't.

Bryan Knowles: A third field goal brings this to a 10-9 Browns lead. Cleveland has just 14 yards on their last three drives, ending in a pair of punts and the end of the first half. I think the Steel Reserves will have to find the end zone at some point if they want to win this one, but the Browns aren't really taking care of business, either -- and if they lose, the Dolphins will slip back into the playoffs, regardless of whether or not Tua Tagovailoa can bring them back against the Bills.

Bryan Knowles: Cleveland responds with their longest drive since the first quarter -- and probably their best, considering most of that first drive was just one huge Nick Chubb run. The big play on this drive was a run as well, but it was a Baker Mayfield scramble, which is not generally something you expect to see. That picked up 30 yards, got the Browns into the red zone, and led to an Austin Hooper touchdown and a 17-9 Browns lead. Game's far from over, but the Browns needed that.

Bryan Knowles: On the Steelers' ensuing drive, Mason Rudolph throws a back-breaking interception to M.J. Stewart. That gave the Browns the ball in the red zone, and Jarvis Landry rushes the ball in to give the Browns what appears to be an unassailable 24-9 lead.

Combined with the Ravens win and the Dolphins loss, that would lock the Browns into the sixth seed. And the Steelers into the third seed. Rematch next week, anyone?

Bryan Knowles: I'd LOVE to see the numbers on this. Up eight points, the Browns faced fourth-and-7 from the Pittsburgh 35 -- a 53-yard field goal to go up two scores with 3:41 left in the game. Instead, they decided to go for it and failed, and now Pittsburgh has the ball...

Aaron Schatz: Bryan, EdjSports' model preferred a field goal by a slim 0.2% GWC.

Bryan Knowles: Oh, Pittsburgh gets the ball back, and DOES get the touchdown, but both the two-point conversion and onside kick fall short, so Cleveland clings to a two-point lead; a first down will end it.

Vince Verhei: Steelers try an onside kick down 24-22. Ball bounces right to Carlson for Cleveland, and he just has to sit on it ... and he nearly screws it up! It is ruled that the Browns recover the ball in the pileup, but that was very close to an all-time Browns moment. Steelers still have three timeouts so this isn't over-over yet.

Scott Spratt: Stephen Carlson was my first guess as to who would lead the Browns hands team. Not sure what you were thinking there, Vince.

Vince Verhei: I was thinking "I have no idea who Carlson is, I'll look up his first name later."

Dallas Cowboys 19 at New York Giants 23

Vince Verhei: I'm watching the potential NFC East silver medal game here in hopes that the Giants will somehow make the playoffs, so the Seahawks can somehow avenge their most embarrassing loss of the year. (All of this is a long shot, but I need some rooting interest here.) So far, so good: Giants take the opening kickoff and march 76 yards in only six plays. Four of those plays picked up first downs, the last a touchdown on a Sterling Shepard end around. Note that the Cowboys are so badly fooled on this play that the Giants have offensive linemen running downfield trying and failing to find someone to block.

Vince Verhei: Giants lead 6-3 at the end of the first quarter as the offenses have gone cold since New York's opening possession. The Dallas points came on a six-play, 7-yard drive (not a typo) after they recovered a botched handoff between Daniel Jones and Wayne Gallman. The Cowboys have run three plays on third down: two sacks and a dropped interception. They also had a third-down interception wiped out on a defensive penalty. Ezekiel Elliott has gone to the sidelines favoring his thigh, but it looks minor.

Aaron Schatz: Dallas defense clearly a little overhyper. Have already gotten a couple of unnecessary roughness penalties.

Bryan Knowles: I had the Giants winning this game. I did NOT have the Cowboys coming out as flat as they have; that really surprises me. They're under 100 yards of offense in the half; they might slide just over in the last 15 seconds here, but this has been a putrid offensive performance. I guess telling Andy Dalton this was essentially a playoff game didn't pay dividends.

The Giants have 7.5 yards per play to Dallas' 3.2, but that's slightly flattering to New York; the big difference is that they've hit their big plays and the Cowboys just haven't. Dante Pettis just caught a 33-yard pass for a score, and if you had told me that Dante Pettis would be relevant to the playoff picture in Week 17 of 2020, I would never have believed you.

The game's not quite over, with the Giants holding on to a 20-9 lead at halftime, but you can see over from here.

Aaron Schatz: Notable players of the first half include the Giants' depth cornerbacks past James Bradberry who are doing an excellent job covering the Cowboys receivers. Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, and Amari Cooper have combined for five catches, 53 yards. Daniel Jones underthrew a deep shot to Darius Slayton at one point but had plenty of arm zip finding 49ers refugee Dante Pettis in the end zone near the end of the second quarter. Cowboys do get into field goal range right before the half so we are at 20-9 Giants.

Vince Verhei: Daniel Jones throws two touchdowns in the second quarter, a short one to Shepard and a long one to Dante Pettis, who I did not realize was even on New York's roster until he was in the end zone. The Cowboys are very lucky this is even 20-9, because it doesn't feel even that close. Dallas is scratching and clawing just to get field goals. Their first came after a turnover; their second after a give-up draw on third-and-long (pretty conservative for a team that was down 13-3 at the time); and their third after they got the ball back with 45 seconds and three timeouts left and still settled for a 57-yard kick at the gun. The Giants haven't converted a third down yet, but it hasn't mattered because they've been so effective on first and second down -- they have 16 first downs and they're averaging 7.5 yards per play.

Should add that Elliott has been moving in and out of the lineup, but he has been quiet -- 27 rushing yards at the half, plus one catch for 9 yards.

Vince Verhei: Game's not over yet -- Evan Engram tips a Jones pass into the air for an interception. CeeDee Lamb gets a 21-yard catch-and-run down the sideline. Amari Cooper's apparent touchdown is replay-reviewed and ruled down at the 1, but no matter -- Elliott plunges in from there and it's a 20-16 game.

Aaron Schatz: Andy Dalton hurt his left hand. It's not his throwing hand but he just handed off to Ezekiel Elliott on a right-side run with his right hand instead of his left because he's hurt.

Aaron Schatz: Giants cornerbacks are covering the Cowboys receivers well enough to get coverage sacks. Giants have five sacks now, pretty much all coverage, including two straight third downs that ended drives.

Aaron Schatz: Dante Pettis just trapped the ball in a 10-yard "catch" on third-and-16. The Cowboys did not challenge so the Giants were able to get a 50-yard field goal to make this 23-19. A challenge probably overturns that and forces a fourth-and-16 punt instead of trying a 60-yard field goal.

Bryan Knowles: Considering Cody Parkey has not attempted a field goal longer than 50 yards this season, that's close enough that the specific identity of the kicker is probably enough to swing the decision.

Vince Verhei: Fourth-and-2 at the Giants 34, Dalton fakes a handoff and dashes for 11 yards. Cowboys now have a third-and-1 at the 14 at the two-minute warning, down 23-19.

Aaron Schatz: After another coverage sack, Andy Dalton just launched it to the end zone with Leonard Williams in his face, and rookie Xavier McKinney picks off a wounded duck. Giants have a 23-19 lead with 1:15 left although Dallas does have all three timeouts remaining.

Bryan Knowles: Oh my, Dallas absolutely imploded inside the 10-yard line. Sack for 10-yard loss, drop, interception in the end zone, see ya.

Vince Verhei: The Cowboys got a first-and-goal, but on first down, Leonard Williams was unblocked for the sack; on second down, Lamb dropped a wide-open pass in the middle of the field; and on third down, Williams pressured Dalton again, and Dalton threw a rainbow into the end zone for an easy interception for Xavier McKinney. Cowboys still have three timeouts, so this isn't over yet.

Bryan Knowles: ...Wayne Gallman gets the game-ending first down, but he FUMBLES. They're saying the Giants recovered, but THAT'S gotta be reviewed.

Vince Verhei: OH GOOD GRAVY. Wayne Gallman runs for a first down on second-and-5 and if he goes down it's a Giants win, but the ball comes free and Dallas gets it!

But after discussion, it is ruled that Gallman recovered the ball on the ground and he was down by contact. This is going to be reviewed and the season for both teams hangs in the balance.

This certainly has been a loser-out 2021 NFC East game.

Scott Spratt: I'm not sure what this tweet says, but probably something like "as long as Wayne Gallman doesn't drop this ball for no reason, the Giants are going to win this game."

Dave Bernreuther: Dalton's extremely ill-advised heave to the end zone -- while rolling left and without much command at all -- leads to a third-down interception that makes me and my (Dallas fan) company wonder much more loudly: why didn't Dallas go for two when they scored to make it 20-16 near the end of the third quarter? If they had, Dalton probably just eats it or tosses that one out of bounds, and it's an easy field goal to tie.

Bryan Knowles: The replay makes the call on the field of Gallman recovering look better than it did in live action. Man, is Gallman lucky; he would have been destroyed forever had the Cowboys recovered the ball and went on to win the game.

Baltimore Ravens 38 at Cincinnati Bengals 3

Bryan Knowles: A win gets the Ravens into the playoffs, but it still isn't decided whether that would give them the fifth seed or the sixth seed -- they can also sneak in with losses elsewhere, but it's always nice to punch your own ticket.

A Devin Duvernay run gets the Ravens into the red zone, but they're held to a field goal when all is said and done. Still, with a 3-0 lead, that's enough to vault the Ravens over the Dolphins here in the early going and into the No. 5 seed. And we'll see how long they can hold that.

Bryan Knowles: I would not want to play the Ravens in the postseason; they seem to be firing on all cylinders, and at just the right time. I get it's against Cincinnati, but Baltimore is looking very, very good so far. There are four minutes left in the first half, and the Bengals have run 10 plays. That is not an ideal number of plays.

If you pencil in the current 17-0 lead as a Ravens win -- and I think that's more than fair at this point -- that gets Baltimore into the postseason as the fifth or sixth seed, depending on what happens in Miami/Buffalo. One playoff berth down, it appears...

Rivers McCown: I wouldn't necessarily call myself "surprised" if the Ravens went on a postseason run but their last five games were against the Jaguars, Giants, Cowboys, Browns, and Bengals. The Browns are probably a more game team than DVOA portends on the surface for a few reasons, but that's five teams under 21st in DVOA. I'm skeptical that the run means a lot given that they're a team built to bully with positive game scripts.

Scott Spratt: You are right, Rivers, that their recent opponents have not been world-beaters. But I think it's fair to look at the Ravens as the best statistical team in football for the last two years that had an out-of-character three-week slump this year that was caused largely by their COVID absences.

Rivers McCown: I agree that the Ravens are a very strong team, which is why I said it wouldn't surprise me if they went on a run.

At the same time, unless they jump out to a bunch of 10-0 leads, I think they've proven that they have problems throwing from a negative game script. So just because they're passing well the last five games against bad teams doesn't exactly get me any more excited about them as some kind of sleeping juggernaut.

Miami Dolphins 26 at Buffalo Bills 56

Scott Spratt: Josh Allen is starting this game, possibly motivated by his proximity to setting the Bills' single-season passing yards record. But Byron Jones doesn't need a backup quarterback to make a fantastic interception. Watch the footwork to secure this catch in bounds after he tipped it to himself.

Bryan Knowles: I do not get why Josh Allen is in this game -- he has already taken a big sack. He'll be playing in a big game next week, take him out!

The Dolphins can't do much with the ensuing drive, and settle for a Jason Sanders field goal, which puts them back atop the AFC wild-card heap. If they win today, they're the No. 5 seed; their odds of doing so increases dramatically the second the Bills starters take the pine.

Scott Spratt: Woah, Bills punter Corey Bojorquez just punted the greatest coffin corner punt I've ever seen.

The Dolphins won't love starting at the 1-inch line with a bottom-10 run-blocking offensive line by adjusted line yards.

Vince Verhei: I'm so happy we got video of that punt. It was fantastic.

Scott Spratt: Allen just set the Bills passing yards record, but he's still in the game. I'm not sure if the plan is to let him finish the drive or the quarter like would happen in a preseason game back in the day, whether they want to target the Colts I guess as a playoffs matchup, or whether they just want to knock the division-rival Dolphins out of the postseason.

Bryan Knowles: That great Bills punt ends up with them getting the ball back at midfield, winning the field position game. As you say, Scott, Allen is still in the game, and he leads the Bills right down the field for the score and the lead. That, at the moment, would knock the Dolphins out of the playoffs entirely, with the Ravens, Browns, and Colts all sliding up a seed into the wild-card positions. I'm surprised the Dolphins didn't stop the game to congratulate Allen on breaking the Bills' passing record, and then carry him off the locker room. You know, in celebration.

Scott Spratt: Did anyone else just see Stefon Diggs flossing on the sidelines? He had a seriously advanced technique where he was hitting two gaps at the same time. Best hands in football?

Bryan Knowles: Before I clicked the link, Scott, I assumed you were talking about the dance. The reality might be weirder.

Scott Spratt: Haha, and I didn't know that was the name of a dance! I'm learning all kinds of things in this game.

Scott Spratt: Well, Matt Barkley had his helmet on ready to go in for Josh Allen. But I guess he can wait until the second half since Isaiah McKenzie just returned a punt for a touchdown, his third total for the game. The Bills are up 21-3 now, and the Dolphins don't even have access to FitzMagic today.

Bryan Knowles: Buffalo's special teams might end Miami's playoff hopes all by themselves. Isaiah McKenzie just took a punt back to the house, and it's a 21-3 Bills lead.

The Miami offense does not seem to trust Tua Tagovialoa, and Ryan Fitzpatrick is unavailable today. I think the fish might well be cooked.

Aaron Schatz: At one point Miami was threatening to rank among the top special teams ever in DVOA history. Then four straight negative games Weeks 13 to 16. Then Isaiah McKenzie punt return touchdown today.

Bryan Knowles: For the record, even if they lose to Buffalo, the Dolphins will still earn a playoff berth if either Cleveland or Indianapolis loses. But it looks like they may be backing their way into the postseason, if that.

Scott Spratt: Wait, Josh Allen came back in? This is just mean-spirited.

Aaron Schatz: I don't understand the Buffalo strategy of sitting their best defensive starters while playing Josh Allen and their starting offense for the entire first half. But it has worked and it looks like the Dolphins are going to lose the AFC game of musical chairs with the score now 28-6 after a John Brown touchdown catch.

Scott Spratt: Tua looked like he might have some of his own FitzMagic when he started the second half with five straight completions to quickly get into the red zone. But the Dolphins landed on a fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Fortunately, they went for it, and Josh Norman's defensive holding penalty gave the team a new first down that Myles Gaskin converted with a run. The Dolphins have cut their deficit to 28-13 early in the third quarter.

Scott Spratt: After watching the first Matt Barkley drive for the Bills, I'll say I think the Dolphins comeback bid is very much alive.

Bryan Knowles: And after watching the ensuing Tua Tagolaivoa drive for the Dolphins, I think I'll say that the Dolphins comeback bid is very much dead -- an immediate pick-six to Josh Norman on an ugly, ugly ball.

Scott Spratt: Oof, yeah. That's a comeback-ender. Although I think DeVante Parker caused that by falling down.

Atlanta Falcons 27 at Tampa Bay Buccaneers 44

Bryan Knowles: Uh-oh. Mike Evans drops a touchdown pass and immediately goes to the ground holding his knee. He tried popping back up, but immediately went right back down. I know the Bucs are pretty full of receivers at the moment, but you don't want to lose Mike Evans just before the playoffs.

Bryan Knowles: Mike Evans did, in fact, end up carted off the field; that's something to monitor as we enter the playoffs.

Possible replacements for Evans include Scotty Miller and Antonio Brown. And, indeed, on the ensuing drive, both Miller and Brown were standing in basically the same spot in the end zone, both wide open. Brady just tossed it in their general direction; Brown came down with it to give the Bucs a 17-3 lead. This one's getting out of hand early for the Falcons.

Scott Spratt: I just saw the Mike Evans injury, ugh. Did they play the Outback Bowl in the Bucs' stadium just yesterday? That seems kind of crazy for turf-condition purposes.

Bryan Knowles: This game was on the verge of being over halfway through the second quarter with Tampa Bay taking a 20-3 lead and Atlanta floundering. Since then, however, Tampa Bay hasn't been able to find the end zone, and Matt Ryan is making a game of this -- Atlanta marched 75 yards down field on the first drive of the second half, Ryan hitting Russell Gage for a couple big plays, including a touchdown to cut the lead to 23-17. You'd still think Tampa Bay pulls this out, but if they don't, then the fifth seed is in jeopardy, and with it, the soft matchup against the NFC East champ. Brady and the Bucs have to get going.

Vince Verhei: I'm not watching this game, but I see that Atlanta just kicked a field goal on fourth-and-goal from the 3 while down by six points late in the third quarter, and I want to go on the record as saying BOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Bryan Knowles: And now make it a 10-point deficit for Atlanta, Vince, as the Bucs march down the field and score again, making it 30-20, Buccaneers.

You don't pull off upsets by kicking field goals, Falcons! I mean, I suppose no team in the league knows more about losing winnable games than the Falcons this year, but still!

Carl Yedor: On the other hand, if you're Atlanta, those sorts of suboptimal in-game decisions likely give them a better shot at the No. 3 pick in the draft. The guys on the field obviously don't care, as Matt Ryan hits Hayden Hurst for a 1-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal. That makes it 30-27, and Tampa Bay will have to continue to sweat this out.

Bryan Knowles: And, finally, the Buccaneers look to have put this one away. The fourth quarter so far has been two 75-yard touchdown drives, both of which featured one huge play (Brian Hill rushing for 62 yards for the Falcons; Brady hitting Chris Godwin for 47-yards for the Buccaneers). That means we're still at a 10-point Bucs lead, but there's only four minutes left now rather than 12. Advantage Tampa Bay, and it looks like they'll have the fifth seed locked up.

New Yorks Jets 14 at New England Patriots 28

Tom Gower: While this game is currently 7-7 at the half, a friend pointed out that with a Jets win today, The Inevitable Firing of Adam Gase has a chance to put him in exclusive company: that of NFL head coaches who won the final three games of their career. The prototypal example of this is, of course, the winner who goes out on top. In the Super Bowl era, the lone actual case of that is Bill Walsh (and even he went back and coached Stanford again afterward). Most coaches stick around and either retire after a playoff loss (like Tony Dungy) or have a down season. But even looking at the Super Bowl era, Walsh is not the only example. As far as I can tell, these are the current members of the group Gase is looking to join:

  • Doc Alexander (1926 NYG)
  • Ralph Jones (1932 CHI)
  • Ray Flaherty (1942 NYG)
  • Ed Hughes (1971 HOIL)
  • George Allen (1977 WAS)
  • Neill Armstrong (1981 CHI)
  • Bill Walsh (1988 SF)

(Yes, this assumes Gase never gets a head job again. But not every twice-failed head coach gets a third chance!)

Scott Spratt: Wide receiver Jakobi Meyers is continuing his tryout to be the Patriots quarterback in 2021. If memory serves, this 19-yard touchdown was nearly identical to the one he threw a few weeks ago.

Bryan Knowles: That means Myers has two touchdown passes and zero touchdown receptions in his career. That has to be a unique statline for a receiver, unless you count Joe Webb.

Tom Gower: The Patriots win, 28-14. Adam Gase cannot ride into the sunset with a three-game winning streak. Alas.

Minnesota Vikings 37 at Detroit Lions 35

Scott Spratt: Tracy Walker just sacked Kirk Cousins on fourth down at the goal line and was penalized for some reason.

This game doesn't have playoff implications, but the win probability swing on that call has to be enormous.

Scott Spratt: The refs have become the story of this game after just overturning a Marvin Jones touchdown even though the ball never hit the ground. I'm completely baffled. It was called a touchdown on the field.

Green Bay Packers 35 at Chicago Bears 16

Scott Spratt: Cordarrelle Patterson is the greatest kickoff returner ever for his returning prowess. But he just showed his savvy by sliding out of bounds before he touched the Packers kickoff. Assuming they don't overrule this via challenge, the Bears are going to start this game from their 40-yard line.

Scott Spratt: I didn't remember the specifics of how Tavon Austin busted in the NFL. But after watching him fumble a kickoff return after minimal contact on a tackle, I'm thinking it may have been the fumbling. He had 22 career fumbles entering today in just 99 games. He doesn't even have 700 career touches (combined rushing, receiving, and returning).

Bryan Knowles: Aaron Rodgers is really good, but the Bears' defense isn't really making things hard for him so far. Rodgers is 10-for-10 for 155 yards and a trio of touchdowns, and he has open receivers basically wherever he's looking. I mean, no one should be this open.

Scott Spratt: Did Roquan Smith end up leaving the game, Bryan? I saw him down and getting checked out earlier, but I haven't been locked into that game.

Bryan Knowles: He did, Scott. He's questionable to return, but hasn't come back yet.

Bryan Knowles: Matt Nagy has called for field goals of 27 and 30 yards against the Packers. The exact situations make each individual call somewhat justifiable -- this most recent one makes it a one-score game, for example -- but the Packers are still leading 21-16. At some point, when you get that deep into enemy territory, you have to go for the knockout. Fourth-and-goal from the 2 should be a go!

Arizona Cardinals 7 at Los Angeles Rams 18

Aaron Schatz: John Wolford just threw his first-ever NFL regular-season attempt directly to Jordan Hicks of the Cardinals. But quarterback Chris Streveler is coming in for Arizona because Kyler Murray was shaken up after a sack.

Bryan Knowles: CFL versus AAF action today, apparently! CFL takes the early lead, which would, as the scores currently stand, knock the Bears out of the playoffs. If Mitchell Trubisky can't beat out John Wolford or Chris Streveler...

Aaron Schatz: Well, Mitchell Trubisky isn't facing Wolford or Streveler today. He's facing the Packers. That's not fair to him at all.

Bryan Knowles: You're right, of course, Aaron, though that's not how the media will cover it!

But, for the moment, all is calm in the windy city. A 14-play, 60-yard drive isn't the epitome of efficiency, but picking up two third downs and a fourth on your way to an opening touchdown ain't nothing. Bears take a 7-0 lead after eating up half the first quarter.

Scott Spratt: It didn't help Trubisky that Nick Foles saddled him with five losses in his seven starts.

Aaron Schatz: It's now 7-3 Arizona. The Rams made it downfield and got six shots at the end zone thanks to a DPI call on third-and-goal, but they also got not one, but two false starts to move them back. Ended up with a field goal. Drive showed the way John Wolford can do things that Jared Goff can't. He had runs of 13, 11, and 9 yards, two scrambles and a read-option.

Bryan Knowles: Crazy play at the goal line over here. First-and-goal at the 2, the Rams give the ball to Cam Akers. He's hit in the backfield and fumbles, and the Cardinals pick it up and are tackled in the end zone. At the moment, the ruling on the field is that Akers' momentum was not stopped, so it's a fumble, and the Cardinals player who recovered it got out to the 1, so forward progress prevents the safety, but that's a bizarre sequence.

Aaron Schatz: The Rams end up getting the safety a couple of plays later on a holding penalty against Justin Pugh.

Bryan Knowles: When you get a backup-versus-backup showdown under center, the result often depends on which reserve passer makes the bigger mistake. Well, that goes to Streveler at the moment -- with the Cardinals in range for a long field goal and possibly more as the second quarter expired, Steveler throws a pick right to Troy Hill, who turns on the jets and returns it 84 yards for a score.

That makes it a 12-7 Rams lead at the half and, at least for the moment, would leave the Cardinals sitting at home in January.

Aaron Schatz: John Wolford is outdueling Chris Streveler right now in Los Angeles. Streveler threw a near-pick-six that Jalen Ramsey dropped and then followed it up with an actual pick-six that Troy Hill snagged, scoring by winding through the Cardinals offensive players and finally outrunning some out-of-breath offensive linemen. It's 12-7, but the bigger gap is in yardage: 61 (2.5 per play) for Arizona and 189 (4.8 per play) for the Rams. The Cardinals only scored because Wolford gift-wrapped them a pick on his first pass and they got the ball in the red zone and didn't have to go far. One surprise, with two inexperienced, mobile quarterbacks: each team has only one sack so far. There has been a good amount of pressure but the quarterbacks are getting rid of the ball or taking off to run.

Aaron Schatz: You can see the difference between the playcallers in this game, I think, not just the difference between the backup quarterbacks. There have been a couple of big third downs now where Wolford is finding a tight end wide open in the space in Cover-2 on good play calls by Sean McVay.

Bryan Knowles: To be fair, McVay has had the whole week to plan for Wolford; Kingsbury thought he'd have Murray today. But yeah, nothing is coming easy for Streveler; nothing's really being schemed up for him.

Bryan Knowles: Drama in Los Angeles, as Kyler Murray is coming limping off the bench to try to spark an Arizona comeback. Woah.

Aaron Schatz: I wonder why the Cardinals called a zone read given Murray's ankle, and I wonder why Murray kept it. That seemed like an unnecessary invitation to get another Aaron Donald shot at their injured quarterback.

Aaron Schatz: Murray moves the Cardinals down the field by finding open guys that Streveler just couldn't find. But he stalls at the goal line, moving backwards with an ill-advised read-option followed by a sack. Arizona tries the field goal to make it a one-score game but the Rams block it! So it's still 18-7 Rams.

Scott Spratt: For all you NFC West watchers, is it possible that John Wolford is better than Jared Goff? Wolford avoids some of Goff's driving-killing sacks with his mobility, and Goff is close to neutral in passing DVOA the last two seasons.

Vince Verhei: Scott, I don't know if Wolford is better than Gofford or not, but I highly doubt it. That said, coming into today, I thought the most entertaining possible outcome for this Rams season was Wolford leading the Rams to a playoff win, leading to an offseason of Goff-vs.-Wolford debate. Now that I know the Rams are playing the Seahawks in the first round, I find that idea much less entertaining.

Seattle Seahawks 26 at San Francisco 49ers 23

Vince Verhei: One of Jonathan Vilma's keys to this game for San Francisco was -- I am not making this up -- "Beathard outplays Russell." I mean, I agree, if C.J. Beathard outplays Russell Wilson, they will win. But if they're relying on that to happen, well, I don't like their odds.

Scott Spratt: You could have talked me into Jeff Wilson out-playing Russell Wilson. Not so much C.J. Beathard.

Carl Yedor: This game kicks off in Arizona while the Cardinals are in Los Angeles due to the situation in Santa Clara County, where Levi's Stadium is located. The stadium aesthetic is, to put it bluntly, weird with how quickly they had to get things set up after the Fiesta Bowl (beyond the lack of fans). There is 49ers signage surrounding the field, but that's about as close to a normal home game vibe as it gets. The logos from the Fiesta Bowl sponsors are still pretty visible, and the end zones are just blocks of red covering up the college team names.

Seattle gets one first down on its opening drive but get no further before having to punt. San Francisco can't even manage that, as Kyle Juszczyk gets stuffed on third-and-short.

Bryan Knowles: Carl, you're 100% right that the end zones look awful. I know they weren't expecting an NFL game here the day after a bowl game, but still. Eef.

That has been the most interesting thing about this game so far -- one big Chris Carson catch-and-run is about all we've had offensively so far, as the game opened punt-punt-punt-punt. The Seahawks broke that pattern with a field goal at the end of the first quarter, and have a 3-0 lead -- which, as the Packers haven't scored yet and the Panthers just tied the game back up with the Saints, would give Russell Wilson and company the NFC bye week as things currently stand.

Vince Verhei: Still 3-0 here at the end of one. This isn't quite as ugly as last week's Seahawks-Rams game -- Seattle had a pretty good drive going before it stalled in the red zone -- but it's another defensive slugfest. Beathard is not outplaying Wilson so far -- the 49ers have had three drives, all punts, with one first down and 29 total yards.

Carl Yedor: Seattle gets on the board first with a Jason Myers field goal. A checkdown in the face of pressure to Chris Carson provided the big chunk on that drive. San Francisco appears to be making a concerted effort to bring extra guys to heat up Wilson on passing downs, and Seattle looks to be incorporating Rashaad Penny a healthy amount early with Carlos Hyde unavailable. The Seahawks coaches are definitely excited to have Penny back, and depending on how he looks this week and during the playoffs, it could potentially alter their approach to how they handle Chris Carson's impending free agency. 2020 has been a mostly lost season for Penny because of his recovery from a torn ACL sustained last year, but it's possible he provides a spark this month. This sort of conversation is DEFINITELY not what you want to be discussing in regard to a former first-round pick at the end of his third season, but it is the world in which we live.

Carl Yedor: A couple of milestones on Seattle's next field goal drive. DK Metcalf breaks Steve Largent's single-season team record for receiving yards in a season, and five plays later, Tyler Lockett breaks a record jointly held by Doug Baldwin and Bobby Engram for the most receptions in franchise history. Seattle has made a concerted effort to get Lockett involved today, as his seven catches are his most in a game since Week 11. It's unclear whether he has been dealing with some sort of nagging injury lately, but he hasn't exceeded 70 yards in a game since his 200-yarder against the Cardinals in prime time.

The defense has been holding up its end of the bargain today, forcing another three-and-out. Jonathan Vilma compared them to the 2013 unit on the broadcast, which requires a bit of pumping the brakes, but they have definitely been playing much better as of late. After giving up record-setting numbers early in the year, they're up to 16th overall in defensive DVOA. With how poorly they started the season, that's definitely an accomplishment.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks lead 6-3 at halftime and it's barely more exciting than that sounds. San Francisco has 95 yards of offense -- 45 of them on one deep Richie James catch. They only have three first downs all day. They're actually outgaining Seattle in yards per play, 4.0 to 3.3, though of course that's skewed by the James catch. Seahawks have been content to get Lockett and Metcalf their records and don't seem eager to do much else. With the Packers and Saints leading, this game is starting to look meaningless, and I am pondering my first Sunday nap since August.

Bryan Knowles: The Seattle offense is really laying an egg today -- just 3.1 yards per play and a significant lack of explosiveness. I think we're watching the next Lions head coach in Robert Saleh; he has really had to stand on his head to produce a very good defensive unit despite all the injuries San Francisco has suffered this year.

Vince Verhei: Niners go up 9-6, sandwiching a pair of field goal drives around a Seahawks three-and-out. Yes, I'd be surprised if Saleh was not a head coach somewhere next year.

Bryan Knowles: Odell Kittle Jr. (OK, maybe a slight exaggeration, but man, I missed Kittle being healthy this year):

Vince Verhei: Following yet another Seattle three-and-out, the 49ers drive 73 yards in 11 plays for a touchdown that makes it 16-6. Biggest play was Beathard hitting Kendrick Bourne for a conversion on fourth-and-3, then Jeff Wilson running in the score. With the Saints pouring it on against Carolina, the Seahawks don't have much to gain today and they may as well pull their starters. But no, Russell Wilson and company are still out there following the kickoff.

Carl Yedor: I'm not sure if Seattle is intentionally saving plays designed to beat the types of soft, two-high/quarters coverages they have been seeing late in the year for the playoffs or if their offensive philosophy is simply that they are going to run the ball against those looks on early downs, but that type of approach has had a negative effect on the offense for most of the second half of the season. They have played some tough defenses lately (five of their last eight have come against teams in the top 10 in defensive DVOA), but they also had a real stinker against the Giants where they managed 10 offensive points. Now down 16-6, they're going to have to open things up if they want to try to come back, though they may not have much to play for.

Aaron Schatz: It's actually an interesting question how hard the Seahawks should try. Are they satisfied with the 3 seed, or do they want to kick the Packers down to the 3 seed ... they would give the Saints home-field advantage but keep themselves from having to play outdoors at Lambeau in January, theoretically in the second round.

Carl Yedor: Definitely a good point, Aaron. I'm not sure who Seattle matches up better against between Green Bay and New Orleans. Additionally, if Seattle were to get up to the 2 seed, they would avoid having to play the Rams defense again. Yes, they managed to beat the Rams last week, but Los Angeles has the best pass defense among Seattle's potential opponents for next week.

Vince Verhei: So the Seahawks didn't get the help they need, they're still losing today anyway, and now they've got injury concerns. Jarran Reed out with an abdominal injury, Jamal Adams left after taking a shot to the shoulder, and now Rashaad Penny has limped off.

Bryan Knowles: This is vintage Seahawks offense -- that being coming alive only in the fourth quarter. Seattle had 95 yards through the first three quarters, but just put together touchdown drives of 75 and 85 yards, scoring on fourth down on their last attempt to take a 19-16 lead with 2:20 left in the game.

How many times have we seen this script before?

Vince Verhei: Just wrapping up the final 15 minutes here: Lockett got to 100 catches on the year and put Seattle ahead with a pair of touchdowns; Benson Mayowa strip-sacked Beathard to set Seattle up in the red zone; Alex Collins (signed off the practice squad yesterday) runs in a touchdown; 49ers get a garbage-time touchdown on a pass to Jeff Wilson, but fail to recover the onside kick; and the Seahawks inexplicably run a SHOVeLL pass to David Moore before kneeling out the clock. Final result will look better than they did for most of the day. Now all eyes turn to Jamal Adams and his status for next week. Could be a big deal for Seattle whether their playoff game next week is on Saturday or Sunday.

Jacksonville Jaguars 14 at Indianapolis Colts 28

Bryan Knowles: You have to like the Colts' odds to make the playoffs now; "just beat the Jaguars" seems like a fairly favorable draw in a must-win game. They take an early lead on a T.Y. Hilton touchdown for the 7-0 lead -- and, technically, the lead in the AFC South title, as Tennessee has yet to take a lead over Houston. Colts fans are huge Deshaun Watson fans today.

Bryan Knowles: Alright, here's an interesting dilemma for Colts fans (if not the Colts themselves). Indianapolis is easily handling the Jaguars; it's 17-0 and Jacksonville is averaging less than 3 yards per play. Do you switch off the Colts game and watch Titans-Texans? I mean, you're in the playoffs either way with a win here, but with this one basically a foregone conclusion, maybe you want to spend more of your day hoping Tennessee struggles.

Scott Spratt: Philip Rivers' gunslinger mentality is keeping the Dolphins' playoff hopes alive! He just dramatically underthrew T.Y. Hilton for an interception on a drive that looked likely to end in points for the Colts.

The Jags open the fourth quarter with the ball and an opportunity to take a lead with seven points.

Tennessee Titans 41 at Houston Texans 38

Bryan Knowles: Deshaun Watson just threw his seventh interception of the year; Amani Hooker undercutting the curl route and setting up a Titans field goal. Even with that pick, though, Watson can still set a career-low for interceptions; he had eight as a rookie in only six starts.

Bryan Knowles: I'm going to say "backup quarterback as the personal protector" should be a big sign that a fake punt is in the offing. Titans missed it.

Tom Gower: Titans lead 17-9 at the half. Tennessee's pass rush has gotten to Deshaun Watson a couple of times, leading to one of Houston's three field goal attempts. Another featured a David Johnson missed catch for a score; the third featured a Brandin Cooks near-touchdown, where replay failed to overturn what Gene Steratore charitably described as, paraphrased, "the close ref had the best view of it, so you shouldn't be surprised they didn't overturn the call of incomplete" just because there seemed like there might be a smidgen of grass between Cooks' (white) shoe and the sideline chalk.

Fortunately for the Titans' chances of winning the division, the other side of the ball features Tennessee's offense against the Houston Texans defense. A Derrick Henry negative run on second-and-10 (a multi-OC Titans love) and false start killed one drive and a drop by a wide-open Corey Davis forced them to settle for the field goal after the aforementioned Hooker interception, but the other two drives were chunks of yards ending in six points, kind of my baseline expectation for the matchup.

Vince Verhei: It's annoying to watch Titans-Texans games because I can never tell if the long Derrick Henry touchdown run I'm watching is live, a replay from earlier today, or a replay from a prior game.

Bryan Knowles: Henry needs just 94 more yards to hit 2,000. I know what I'm rooting for the rest of the way.

Bryan Knowles: Another fourth-down decision that'll get debated all week, depending on what happens here. The Titans faced a fourth-and-11, up three points, from the Houston 37. Rather than attempt the long field goal, they went for it -- and Ryan Tannehill got sacked 11 yards behind the line, meaning the Texans started with the ball just on their own side of the 50. From there, it doesn't take long for Watson to drive the Texans downfield (helped by an unnecessary roughness call), and all of a sudden, the Texans are back on top, 35-31, and the Colts are in first place in the division.

Scott Spratt: As Deshaun Watson takes the lead on a touchdown pass to Pharaoh Brown, I have to wonder if Bill O'Brien had one thing right: Watson can make it work with absolutely anybody at receiver.

Aaron Schatz: I wonder if the Titans went for it on that fourth-and-11 because their kicker is on the COVID list and they're using a backup kicker.

Scott Spratt: Derrick Henry did get to 2,000 rushing yards this year. DH2K.

Aaron Schatz: Ryan Tannehill threw a dropped pick in the end zone but Tyrell Adams of Houston couldn't hold onto it. Next play, read-option, Tannehill saunters into the end zone all by himself to take a 38-35 lead.

Looks like the Titans will win the AFC South.

Aaron Schatz: Did I say the Titans would win the AFC South? Uh, that's still up in the air. Deshaun Watson gets a big YAC pass to David Johnson then finds Keke Coutee on the sideline for 29 yards to put Houston into field goal range. They stall from there but Ka'imi Fairbairn hits a 51-yarder and it looks like we're going to overtime at 38-38.

Aaron Schatz: Oh, I'm sorry, did I say we're going to overtime? Somehow the Texans let A.J. Brown get way past the deep safety when the safety jumps a shorter crossing route and the Titans somehow get 54 yards with 18 seconds left and now they're in field goal range.

Aaron Schatz: The backup kicker Sam Sloman hit the field goal! The 37-yarder doinked off the right upright and bounced through and the Titans win the division. Crazy ending.

Bryan Knowles: Doink! And through! Extra style points to win the division!

Scott Spratt: Too bad the Titans won't draw the Browns next week. It could have been a doink-off between Sloman and Cody Parkey.

Scott Spratt: I take it back. The Titans-Ravens rematch is way more fun.

Tom Gower: Mike Vrabel mentioned after the game that he didn't think 55 was within Sam Sloman's range. That was what I expected when he made the decision, and going with your best unit rather than punting and hoping your awful defense would stop Houston was a perfectly reasonable thing to do. As I tweeted at the time, the bad thing about that play was Tannehill taking an 11-yard sack, not the decision to leave the offense on the field.

What a crazy second half. The Titans were up 31-15 with less than five minutes to play in the third quarter, and the situation felt pretty comfortable. But the defense didn't do anything (of course), Henry fumbled on the first play, the defense didn't do anything on a short field, the fourth-down decision we've been discussing, the defense didn't do anything on a longer but still relatively short field, and the Texans had a 35-31 lead. Then the Titans converted four third downs and overcame two touchdowns called back due to penalty to take the lead, the Texans tied it with a field goal, and, shocking me, the Titans elected to let Ryan Tannehill actually try after they got the ball with just 18 seconds left in regulation. It's the perfect time to fake-try with a handoff to Derrick Henry, who'd had the expected monster day. But Tannehill got to throw one up to A.J. Brown, who had played play a huge role on the previous touchdown drive, displaying his strong hands in contested-catch situations, and they managed to scheme up single coverage putting Brown and Corey Davis to the same side as the Texans went with quarters coverage. Sam Sloman's kick drifted right, but hit the upright favorably and banked in.

I'm not going to do the research tonight, and probably not even at all, but you don't see many games where a team scores on eight consecutive possessions, as Houston did the last eight times they had the ball, and loses. That we're not surprised about the relative success of both offenses against both defenses says a fair amount about both teams. Right now, one team's season is over and I'm just happy the one I root for gets to play next week, at home.

Rivers McCown: Here is my final recap of the season. I now hate football, though I might love it again in a few weeks. I'll get back to you.

New Orleans Saints 33 at Carolina Panthers 7

Scott Spratt: The Panthers answered the Saints' opening score with a Rodney Smith one on the goal line. But on the previous play, Teddy Bridgewater took a shot on his surgically repaired leg on a scramble that set the team up on the 1-yard line. I don't think the injury is serious, but it's possible that P.J. Walker makes an appearance today.

Scott Spratt: Teddy Bridgewater has thrown two interceptions in the end zone today, and by my count, the Panthers have thrown six interceptions in the red zone this season. That latter number leads the NFL and explains at least a chunk of the Panthers going 3-8 in single-score games this year. The silver lining is that a loss here would put the Panthers in a good spot to potentially land one of the big four college quarterbacks in the 2021 draft.

Bryan Knowles: And, indeed, here comes P.J. Walker. That'd be a Bridgewater benching, and just raises the odds Carolina goes quarterback in the draft.

Bryan Knowles: Hilarious moment in the Saints/Panthers game. Emmanuel Sanders came into today eight receptions short of an incentive in his contract, one that would give him $500,000.

Well, he was apparently keeping track, because after catching his eighth pass, he had a little mini-celebration on the field. Good for him!

Washington Football Team 20 at Philadelphia Eagles 14

Scott Spratt: The Eagles tipped their hands to their interest in winning this game in sitting Dallas Goedert, DeSean Jackson, Miles Sanders, and other key starters. But Giants fans still must be lamenting Washington's quick start to this one. That started with a 15-play, 91-yard drive that Alex Smith capped with a touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin. And Washington quickly returned to the brink of the red zone and connected on a field goal after safety Kamren Curl intercepted a pass that Zach Ertz never even saw as he fought for position in heavy traffic. Washington is up 10-0 with about two minutes left in the first quarter.

Tom Gower: The thing about Washington's opening drive is that we have seen how their offense works -- Alex Smith throws short, shorter, and shortest. We even named a stat after him because of it! My quibbles with the stat aside, it's a known strategy for how they play. And yet, they converted multiple third downs short of the sticks with yards after catch, a couple of them with minimal contest by the Eagles defenders. I know, Philadelphia's sitting a bunch of guys and the back seven wasn't great even at its best, but that's performance art by Jim Schwartz.

Scott Spratt: Trying to trick Chase Young with a zone read or RPO play may not be the right approach. I don't think there's anything Jalen Hurts could have done on this play that wouldn't have resulted in a tackle for a loss.

Bryan Knowles: Philly bringing back a little of that Super Bowl trick play spirit, letting Greg Ward throw a pass. The completion to Travis Fulgham was the Eagles' biggest play of the game so far, if you exclude Washington penalties. It does eventually lead to a touchdown, so we may have a game after all.

And Scott, that defensive line is terrifying. Having a team with a losing record in the postseason is suboptimal, but getting to see more of Chase Young and friends at least gives Washington a draw.

Bryan Knowles: Wait, J.J. Arcega-Whiteside is allowed to make a contested catch? That's news to me!

Philadelphia takes the lead after Hurts finds Arcega-Whiteside blanketed on third down; 'twas a hell of a catch. Hurts runs the ball in himself and it's 14-10 Giants -- err, Eagles. Same thing tonight.

Aaron Schatz: A little surprised by how much the pressure us getting to Alex Smith without Fletcher Cox or Derek Barnett around. The Eagles aren't blitzing either.

Scott Spratt: Marcus Epps just made a crazy interception. He caught the pass at the same time he crashed into J.D. McKissic, the intended target.

That sets the Eagles up with a short field where a touchdown would regain them a lead late in the third quarter. The Eagles may be resting players, but they could definitely win this and put the Giants in the playoffs.

Aaron Schatz: Eagles pass up the field goal to go for fourth-and-goal, but in that whole red zone appearance Hurts just couldn't find anyone open and the fourth down was no different. He ended up running around and then short-hopping a receiver who was covered anyway, and Washington will get the ball back.

Bryan Knowles: Joe Judge said, before the game, that the Giants would "let Sunday night take care of itself." I assume the alternative would have been to wrestle the playsheet away from Doug Pederson and call the game-tying field goal there!

Aaron Schatz: I take it back. The receiver he short-hopped was open, as shown on replay. Hurts just made a bad throw under pressure.

Bryan Knowles: ... Nate Sudfeld is coming in? For ... what reason?

Aaron Schatz: Let the record state that the EdjSports model favored going for it on the fourth-and-4 by 2%, although that's small enough to probably consider it a toss-up decision.

Washington gets about 30 yards, then has to punt. And Nate Sudfeld is coming into the game for the Eagles to replace Hurts.

Scott Spratt: What's the motivation for bringing in Nate Sudfeld? Isn't Jalen Hurts the quarterback the Eagles need to evaluate for the future?

Bryan Knowles: I guess there's an argument for getting some film on Sudfeld in case you want to bring him back as QB3 in 2021, but, I mean, they re-signed him this year without the need for extra film, so I don't even know.

Rivers McCown: I love when the NFL tries to engineer this schedule so, so tightly so the final game matters and then the teams involved decide that Nate Sudfeld should play.

Bryan Knowles: Rivers, I think this is the absolute perfect send-off to this year's NFC East. I commend both teams for living up to their reputation, and present them with the proper soundtrack to their performance.

Aaron Schatz: This is just hilarious. I don't know what's funnier, Nate Sudfeld's fumble or the Eagles jumping offsides on the hard count when Washington had fourth-and-1 to ice the game.

Vince Verhei: There could be no more appropriate way for the 2021 NFC East to be decided than on the stupid fake hard count stuff that never works.

Comments

159 comments, Last at 06 Jan 2021, 11:21am

1 The Dolphins have to be at…

The Dolphins have to be at least thinking about a QB at #3, right?  They are unlikely to be drafting that high again for quite a while due to the whole "having quality young players and good coaches" thing but Tua's ceiling looks like Tyrod Taylor.  They got to be at least a little tempted...

8 Yes

And this is another good reason why you don’t sit highly drafted rookie QBs. You never know when the opportunity to acquire the next guy will arise, so you need data to inform those decisions. It’s clear Tua has struggled, but it’s still very tough predict his future after only half a dozen starts. 

Having said that, what harm can it do Miami to draft another QB at 3 and let them compete? Missing out on a top prospect at another position, I guess. But finding a QB is of such importance that I wouldn’t hesitate, if the opportunity looked good. 

 

25 Also, we shouldn't overreact…

In reply to by BJR

Also, we shouldn't overreact to one game, a game which looked more like volleyball than football at times for the Dolphins offense.

Still, it's an interesting question: double down on a QB? It sounds intriguing, but I'm not sure it's a great idea. The media would take the facilities by storm, the questions would never stop. And I don't think the players would be very happy, either. Some QBs have been known to request a trade after another QB is drafted. Also, you have to design your system around one player. The competition won't be fair to the other.

It's still an interesting idea.

31 It's basically tripling down…

It's basically tripling down. They drafted Tua after kicking the tires on Rosen.

That said, QB has become important enough that at times I wonder if it's not worth spending every pick in a draft on QBs and just seeing if anyone of them are good.

73 Also, you have to design…

Also, you have to design your system around one player. The competition won't be fair to the other.

This is true, especially since Tua is a lefty.  I wonder if this could be contributing to his struggles.  Is the Miami offense designed for a right handed QB?

61 Washington/Arizona missed opportunity vs hit opportunity

In reply to by BJR

I so agree that you would want a larger sample size on Tua.  First of all, with those extra games that he could have had at the beginning of the season, he may have developed further and gotten Miami in the playoffs, where you would get even more of a look.  They never intended to make the playoffs this year, and got in the sticky position of wanting to win games yet look to the future.  The two Fitzpatrick relief  victories, does not make for a successful Tua season.

I am not saying that Tua has been as bad as Haskins or Rosen, but Arizona chose a do-over and got Kyler Murray.  Washington had the same opportunity, and passed on Herbert.  Chase Young has been a great pick, but now they have Alex Smith (can't wait until ALEX final ratings come out tomorrow to see if Cam Newton or Alex Smith was the 2020 ALEX champ).  The 2 yard pass on third and 8, and the 5 yard pass on 3rd and 10 were gold last night, but there is no future in Alex Smith, just the great feel-good story of the year with his comeback.

Since the QB is so important, I do not see the harm in taking another one in the first round, Josh Rosen did get traded to Miami for a 2nd round pick, one of the few mistakes Miami has made in this rebuild and an added bonus for Arizona as they got Kyler Murray and a second round pick. 

Winning 10 games with Tua/Fitzpatrick, and having a negative offensive DVOA, tells me that this team with a QB upgrade is a Super Bowl contender now.  Its so hard to go off of a small sample size.  I can not see starting Tua again and resigning Fitzpatrick as the bailout reliver.  Anyway, its time for Fitzpatrick to find a 9th team.  I like NE, they need a QB and Fitzpatrick can play for all AFC East teams, and never win a division title.

An additional benefit of the pick a QB strategy is that it is an insurance policy protecting against a QB injury.  If whoever you start plays well during the first few games, and Miami decides that this is their guy, the other QB can be traded like Rosen was, and likely command a better return than Rosen.

Going back to 2012 RG3 was taken in round 1 by Washington, Cousins in round 4.  Everyone was questioning that at the time but it turned out to be an excellent 4th round pick.

This is why the big bucks money is paid to a GM and the GM career maker/breaker decisions.  

91 75% of teams are 1-and-done…

75% of teams are 1-and-done. It's a single-elimination tournament. A Flaccoean or Folesian hot streak can get you a title, or a sufficiently competent defense can carry a warm body to a title.

103 Sufficiently competent defense and warm body

Can not think of a better description for:

1.  WFT

2.  Chicago Bears

3.  LA Rams

4.  Miami with Tua (already disqualified)

The three combined win the Super Bowl in 9 of 1000 in FO outsiders simulations.

Tier two -- sufficiently competent defense and warmer older bodies:

1.  Pittsburgh

2.  Indy

3.  Miami with Fitzpatrick (already disqualified)

This will get you another 32 shots in 1000

This is what good defense gets you, 5 teams put of 14 combine for a 4.1% chance. (I did not count Miami, but added them for the point of what would they do if they got in).

In any one game, I agree that anyone can win.  It will be difficult to get a 4 game playoff winning streak out of this crew to become champion.

It is so hard to win with defense in this era without an offense at a very high level.  Denver carrying Peyton Manning to the championship in his final year was your 1 in 25 or 4.1% chance.

Not to nitpick but, I believe that 50% of teams are one and done. 

 

114 Not to nitpick but, I…

Not to nitpick but, I believe that 50% of teams are one and done

This is an analytics forum so nitpicking is fine. In that spirit It's not 75% and it's not 50% either, though it could be either in the 12 team top 2 teams get a bye format.

In the 14 team 2020 format it's 42.9, 50, or 57.1%

6 team per conference format with 2 wild card teams and top 2 seeds getting bye weeks.

  • 4 of 12 are guaranteed to be one and done as there are 8 games on wild card weekend with 4 other teams getting a bye.
  • In the next week you can add 4 more teams if both #1 and #2 seeds lose. I don't believe that has ever happened.
  • So it can be 75% if both #1 and #2 teams lose after their bye weeks. But it can also be just 33% (4 of 12) if both #1 and #2 seeds win.  It can also be 5/12 (41.7%), 6/12 (50%), or 7/12 (58.3%).

7 teams per conference format with 3 wild card teams and only top seed getting bye week.

  • 6 of 14 are guaranteed to be one and done
  • Can add 2 more in the next week to get to 8 of 14
  • Options are 6/14 (42.9%), 7/14 (50%), 8/14 (57.1%)

Because of the bye week mechanism in the 12 team format it was more common for a playoff team to play in at least 2 games than play in just one game. I believe the #1 and #2 seeds went 46-22 so a 68% clip.  

The 14 team format will likely shrink the margin but I still expect both #1 seeds to win more often than both of them will lose, and if only one loses then you are at 50/50. 

130 Which draft are we talking…

Which draft are we talking about? If we are talking the one he came from, who knows about Tua, Burrow looked ok despite being in a tire fire, and Herbert was freaken awesome as a rookie. If you are talking about next year's draft...its got Lawrence in it so....not sure about that either. 

136 I meant 2020. Burrow and…

I meant 2020. Burrow and Herbert seem to be fine, no insult to them. But this kid seems special. My point, if there was one, was that WFT is the least likely team to regret their first round pick.. even if they have to find their own Burrow/Hebert in a couple years.. they’d be unlikely to find another Chase Young. We spend a lot of time here debating the strategic value of QB picks, and underrate generational defensive talents that outlive the young next elite-qb hype of their classmates.. Ref/ JJ Watt versus the field in 2011 or.. well.. was going to say Ray Lewis in 96 but never mind. 
 

I really don’t mean to be hyperbolic, and maybe Young falls off, but it seems less likely that he regresses than do Burrow or Herbert, no?

140 "generational"

shouldnt be important. Because you know that a generational K, P, LS doesnt matter.

You mention JJ Watt who is indeed awesome and had one of the best stretches of all time...but it didnt matter (for rings sake) because he didnt have a QB. He "outlived" QBs but does that matter? And he starts to fall off once he gets a QB. How ironic. QBs play forever nowadays too. 

142 Not sure the relevancy of…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Not sure the relevancy of Kickers and Punters and Long Snappers to defensive standouts...

The question, I think I am heading towards, is whether an elite “quarterback of the defense” is a better value than a pretty good quarterback of the offense

144 When it comes to the win…

When it comes to the win-loss record of a team, a thoroughly average quarterback is going to have more value than JJ Watt. That's just the reality of the position.

Now a more nuanced approach to this would be along the following: am I better off taking JJ Watt and trying my hand at finding a better than average player.

Or am I better off with a pretty good quarterback and never finding a player of JJ watt's quality.

Maybe it comes down to your definition of pretty good, but consider a redraft of 2011. If my sole goal is to win a sb in the next 10 years, then the Panthers absolutely made the right decision drafting Cam. He certainly won't be remembered or regarded as a better player than a bunch of other players in that same draft who are likely Hall of famers, but they aren't as impactful.

145 Yes, thanks for the better…

Yes, thanks for the better framing (of the nuanced approach). The key factor might be the relative difficulty of finding the average qb versus the elite defender. If you think JJ Watt might be special, and Cam is off the board already, maybe mid-round you pass on Ponder/Gabbert/Locker figuring that there’ll be a Tannehill in that spot next year anyway. This of course presumes defenders are less of a crapshoot than quarterbacks. 

146 Relatively closer to that than QB

So, no a "generational quarterback of the defense" isn't a providing better value than a "non generational" but franchise QB. 

On average the 10th best QB is probably just as valuable (or more so) than the best edge (since it's about a Young).

Now the WFT isnt in range of a (good, not even "generational") QB prospect but they're not good enough to seriously be considered a contender, and, just like Watt, by the time they do find someone, he's probably declining and/or really expensive. 

41 I get the value of QBs

and maybe if Fields/Lawrence is there but I'm not going with a 1 year wonder over the guy that had an illustrious college career after 10 games and only 9 starts. If you truly value him/them that highly, trade back. And if Tua ends up being as bad as people like to think he is, they'll be back up there again another year as defense (even theirs) is very hard to sustain. But I'm gonna try to build around the guy that was the top player on big boards 16 months ago. 

39 I guess it comes down to…

I guess it comes down to whether you are an Allen-ist or a Rosen-ite.

The problem with the Allen-ist argument in Tua's case is that Allen was pretty explicitly a project QB from a small program and had no pedigree while Tua was a highly-recruited prospect who played at freaking Alabama and was drafted as a polished QB who was NFL-ready from day 1 (injuries notwithstanding).  There isn't a whole lot of reason to believe that Tua is significantly below his ceiling right now.

The problem with the Rosen-ite argument is that Rosen was just flat out awful as a rookie while Tua is merely a disappointing game manager who doesn't throw well downfield.  You can probably work with Tua and win games even if he doesn't provide good value for his draft position.

If the Dolphins didn't hold the #3 draft pick it would be a no-brainer to roll with Tua for another couple of years but they do hold that pick and it presents an interesting opportunity that not many 10-6 teams get.

43 "I guess it comes down to…

"I guess it comes down to whether you are an Allen-ist or a Rosen-ite."

I don't think you can know this ex ante. Allen was flat bad while Rosen was abysmal, but Rosen's situation was garbage on fire. Remember, even Sam Bradford looked unplayable that year as well.

Rosen is probably never going to get another shot at QB so that decision won't ever look terrible, but imagine what would have happened if people like me who cut bait on Allen after season 2 would have looked?

58 I mean, his second…

I mean, his second environment was with the horrible Dolphins, somehow a downgrade from his prior team. Yes Fitz can make any bad situation work, but that kind of situation usually destroys a QB. 

69 I nominate your post last night as FO post of the year

Your comments (theslothook) on Week 17 open discussion about the NFC East last night were great.  What a finish.  I have also seen so many NFC East games this year with the deluge on national TV.  As much as we want the NFC East funeral next week, no one can be worse than 2009 Division winner 7-9 Seattle who lost all 9 games by double digits, with negative 31% DVOA, then won a playoff game, so next Saturday night's game with Tampa may be simply a viewing, the coffin may remain open and the funeral may be on a future date.

Those Giants fans are fuming.  The 6-10 finish, the final victory, but oh wait, instead of going down to the turf with the game winning first down, a fumble and then the recovery.  This was also a classic finish.  My disappointment is not having the 6-10, vastly negative DVOA team making it.  WFT is too mediocre for me, there will be worse playoff teams going forward, and there already may be this year, as when the final DVOA ratings come out, it will be a battle between Cleveland, Chicago and WFT for this year's FO worst playoff team.

129 Nah… Definitely not fuming…

Nah… Definitely not fuming. Giants only slink into the playoffs when there’s a chance of running the table. This team legitimately sucks. I am happy to not have a Trubisky problem and instead count the days until the rumbling tumbling sack of Jones is jettisoned. Sad state of affairs when late career Colt McCoy is the best quarterback on the roster. 

24 Best pick in Draft

If someone really wants Fields, they will likely take the trade offer so long as they don't move out of the top 10. That said, if there's a grade 3rd pick in draft DE, RB, WR type player, they should take them. Dolphins need more super stars. They don't need more solid players. I don't see them giving up on Tua after one year and the only QB you'd pick to replace him will be gone by 3.

37 Funny you should mention Tyrod

I've been making that comparison for weeks. As a Bills fan, I hope the Dolphins keep Tua. He seems incapable of throwing to any area of the field other than the area between the left hash and the left sidelines. Doesn't scare me one bit.

46 I spent 3 years watching…

I spent 3 years watching Tyrod Taylor refuse to make any throw that would be even remotely contested and Tua's play reminds me exactly of that.

What differences do you see outside of draft position?

48 I think it is way too quick…

I think it is way too quick to making judgments about Tua's play. He's a rookie that got no in-person offseason. Often rookies are hesitant and not used to dealing with the rush. Have to think that was enhanced by the lack of prep due to injury and offseason. I expect him to make a big leap in year 2, if he doesn't then we can talk.

57 Look at his receivers

He was tossing passes to two converted college QBs, Mack Hollins, and Ford a guy they liked so much they traded him away once this season already. It's possible none of these guys are on the team next season. Parker is his only down field target and he's been playing hurt all season. If Tua wasn't doing what Flores wanted, I have no doubt Fitz would have been in these last 8 games more. We all know Fitz will throw the ball to anyone. It worked against the Raiders, failed against Denver. In the end, we all wish we knew more about Tua. But I doubt given the Tannehill situation, that Miami punts after this iffy first season. Next season hopefully they have Hurns, Wilson, Parker, Williams, (3rd pick in the draft), free agent at WR and a first or second round back and the excuses about talent around him will be over. 

60 Yeah, he needs more talent…

Yeah, he needs more talent around him. Does anyone know what the situation is on the Miami OL? What's the talent level like? They had bottom 1/3 in FO numbers. Seems to me that could be an area to address also.

76 They were bad, yes. But they…

They were bad, yes. But they were starting three rookies and they were better than last year. There's a lot of room for improvement from within, if they choose to go that way.

It was a bad situation for Tua with a bad line, bad running game, extremely weak WR corps, no training camp, coming back from major injury and an offense that wasn't built for him. And even then at worst he was bad, but not horrible. At best he was pretty good. He only had -53 on 58 attempts yesterday and that includes a lot of clown shoes receiving. The book on him is not even remotely near to being closed.

2 The Nate Sudfeld decision in…

The Nate Sudfeld decision in the abstract doesn't matter much. Screwing over a 6 win team is probably a blessing all things considered.

 

That said, there appears to be 0 logic behind the move. If the goal was to tank, why play Hurts at all? If the goal became Hurts isn't good enough, why not play Wentz more?

 

The decision made absolutely 0 sense. Just madness.

4 I'm REALLY reaching here

Maybe they have a behind the scenes trade partner for Wentz and didn't want to risk any injury and thought Hurts isn't good enough as well?

 

Just throwing wild hypothesis out there because I'm with you, nothing about it made sense. 

13 Agreed. There must be…

Agreed. There must be something going on with Wentz behind the scenes because making him inactive certainly wouldn't give them the beat chance to win in the event of a Hurts injury.

 

But that said, has Hurts really played well enough to just write off Wentz altogether?

128 There is more to building a team than draft position.

First, a normal draft is a die throw. This year with the abnormal college football schedules driven by CV19, its roulette. The improvement in draft position is marginal at best.

Second, disrespecting your vet players by not playing to win risks loosing the locker room. Why should the vet players take the extra work when the coach isn't committed?

Third, if you are a top tier free agent, would you sign to play for this guy? 

137 Counters

1. It's never about any specific draft but it's about being in control. Of course you can mess up any pick but higher picks allow you to trade back and get more die throws if they want. Always easier to trade down than up. 

2. How exactly is it disrespecting? Because they were bad earlier in the year? Chances are they're in that situation because a lot of them (not all) weren't putting in "extra work." The coach is committed but he has a longer, bigger picture in view. The players just want to add to their win column for bragging rights at the end of their career, if we're being honest.

3. Yes. Because it's all about the money (or can be for some). And these guys will be too in 3 months when they completely forget about this specific 6.25% of the season. No one is going to specifically join the Chargers because of a 4 game win streak when they were eliminated from the playoffs (and fired that, respected(?), HC). They'd go there because of $.

151 I definitely think there are…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I definitely think there are good, intangible reasons not to obviously tank. The Eagles players must have been pissed about how that went down. Maybe it's forgotten come next training camp, maybe not. But locker room harmony/culture cannot simply be dismissed. 

Belichick coached his first meaningless week 17 game in forever last Sunday, and you didn't see his team tanking. 

7 It's like it was to tank but…

It's like it was to tank but not totally look like like they were tanking. And then when they still had a chance to win, they removed even that illusion. I also saw a couple plays where it looked suspiciously like a Philly O Lineman just didn't block anyone on purpose in a very strange looking way. I don't have a rooting interest, but it was just bizarre.

107 Hurts stinks on ice

I don't know if you watched the game, but Hurts was 7-20 with a pick for 72 yards. That's worse than the worst game of Wentz' career. If someone with Carson's resume can be pulled for the backup QB, so can a nobody like Jalen Hurts. [N.b. Carson was inactive last night]

5 Sounds like it was an…

Sounds like it was an audible by Russell Wilson that the whole huddle was on board with. Carroll seemed surprised about it, but it also may have been that Moore ran OOB. Congrats to Moore, he took a pay cut in the off-season and was rewarded for it. 

6 Jonathan Taylor’s 253 yards

What does Jonathan Taylor have to do to get mentioned in Audibles?  Outrush Derrick Henry?

oh, wait....

actually he got stuffed a ton and might not make the top five due to opponent adjustments.  But he hit 1,000 yards with only like 11 starts and overcame Rivers’s ordinariness to drag the team into the playoffs.  Not bad for a rookie.  

I was hoping for a revenge rematch w BAL, PIT, or CLE. but that might have to wait.   

77 Fumbles and...

Colts RB room had one fumble all season, from a rookie trying to squeeze out more yardage on a 11-yard run vs the Ravens.  I'll take that.

Another concern about him coming out of Wisconsin was his inability to help in the passing game (more of an unknown than a "problem").  He averaged about 3 rec and 20 yards per game, which isn't bad. He also had a 100% catch rate until the final few weeks, which as I understand it, is good.  And finally, I believe Indy led the league in RB receiving (mostly due to Hines, but also helped by Taylor).  So no fumble problems (knock wood) and no negatives in the passing game (knock wood).  He's also shown the ability to pick up blitzes (when the play call doesn't involve calling a play-action pass vs PIT when you have two replacement OTs, the fake handoff comes on the right side and PIT blitzes through the left-side B gap.  sigh)

Next year's backfield with Marlon Mack should be pretty intimidating and might keep Phil Rivers from making any terrible mistakes.

86 Oh wow

In reply to by Bobman

Didn't realize he was the only RB on the team that fumbled. Impressive altogether. 

The pass catching concern was also a little overstated. Wisco doesnt really pass and in his final year he (should've) rectified what concerns people had as his target share was higher than any year CEH, just didn't have the volume. But in the end, it was always in his arsenal. Also he didn't catch one target in week 5 but was 100% in 11 games. 1 game he missed, 1 game he didnt get any targets and the other 3, he was between 50%-80%. Myles Gaskin juuuuust overtook him in Y/Tgt among RBs yesterday. Best rookie RB. Good to hear he's good in pass pro though.

All Rookie RB in my book

34 Taylor has improved so much…

Taylor has improved so much.  He was BAD early in the year and his fumble against the Ravens completely changed the game.  He constantly missed holes and had no vision.  

Ever since then he has been rock solid.  He had massive space to run yesterday, but credit for finding them and exploiting it.  Have to think this is the end of Marlon Mack in Indy.

I said all week the Colts could still win the division if Watson goes supernova.  It happened, but the Texans defense was an even bigger black hole.

Can the Colts beat Buffalo?  Yes, but I don't like the matchup.  Defense is going to have to force some turnovers and Reich is going to have to be much better than he was this week.  WTF was Brissett doing in on a 3rd and 5 only to settle for a long FG instead of going for it on 4th down?  That whole sequence made me very angry.

80 Indy v Buffalo

I agree that Reich seems to have some brain farts from time to time, but for him the bar is set considerably higher than some other play callers.  Not comfy when the O seems to go pass-heavy (though that may be Rivers audibling) and especially when you are missing one or two OTs against a stout D-line like CLE, BAL, and PIT.    I assume there is some new wrinkle in the Brissett packages he's been waiting to show in a big game--send him out on first and 10 and the defense assumes run but he passes?  Or if the D does not adjust, go with a run.  Send him out on 2nd and 1 and he passes? (3rd or 4th downs as well, for that matter)  I am concerned that every time his number is called, it's a QB non-sneak.  I hate offensive predictability (same snap counts all the time, etc).  Keep the D honest.

Anyway, in Buffalo, I am now praying for wind and snow/rain/plague of locusts to neutralize the Bills' passing game and Indy's average pass D, putting the burden on each team's run game and the Colts' considerably better run D.  I think that would make it a 50/50 proposition, which is about the best I dare hope for with Castonzo out at LT.  

92 Anyway, in Buffalo, I am now…

In reply to by Bobman

Anyway, in Buffalo, I am now praying for wind and snow/rain/plague of locusts to neutralize the Bills' passing game

Not sure it will work. Diggs spent years in Minnesota and Allen played college ball in Wyoming, and both are in Buffalo. I'm more comfortable with them handling weather than Indy.

157 After some of the throws I…

After some of the throws I've seen Allen make this year I'm inclined to agree. Seems like the best bet is to have him do something stupid and injure his non-throwing shoulder. That seems to have been the reason for his mid-year slump.

10 Perhaps I was just tired,…

Perhaps I was just tired, but Tennessee/Houston didn’t excite me much at all. Two shambolic, hopelessly overmatched defenses; whoever had the ball last, or won the coin toss in overtime was obviously going to win. Maybe it’s what the average red zone viewer wants, but I feel there are too many games like this now and it’s boring.

Credit to Bill O’Brien and whoever else is in the Houston brains trust. Going 4-12 with DeShaun Watson under centre for 16 games is a rare achievement. 

11 Billy Turner

just really wowed me this season.  He looked pretty awful at times at guard in 2019, but in 2020 he has been rock solid playing at several positions.  I thought it was going to be an ugly mess with Turner at tackle to start the season and that was completely wrong.

 

Good for him, good for the team.  

20 Yes I was pleased with how…

In reply to by big10freak

Yes I was pleased with how he played yesterday and all season. He got beat a couple times but wasn’t constantly noticeable. Stenavich has been fantastic, really incredible work by him and the OL players. 

15 Bryan Knowles: You're right,…

Bryan Knowles: You're right, of course, Aaron, though that's not how the media will cover it!

You know, you guys are the media, too...

Scott Spratt: It didn't help Trubisky that Nick Foles saddled him with five losses in his seven starts.

Trubisky has faced a vastly easier set of opposing defenses. Trubisky is -231 DYAR-YAR, so his numbers get a huge easy schedule adjustment. Foles is +106; his numbers get a huge hard schedule adjustment. After adjustment, they are basically the same guy.

51 After adjustments, Trubisky…

After adjustments, Trubisky has 79 DYAR, Foles -112.  That's still a 191 DYAR gap; for reference, Lamar Jackson (265) has 186 more DYAR than Trubisky's 79.

I have no issue with the Bears moving on from Trubisky (he's at best a bottom-tier starter), but he was still significantly better than Foles (who was a disaster).

66 I tend to regard the D…

I tend to regard the D-adjustment in DYAR as being under-powered. (See also, 2019 Patriots defense)

Even without it, though, I don't see Trubisky doing better on the Foles portion of the schedule than Foles did.

147 Also, VOA/DVOA is for the whole unit...

The offensive line's worst performances came when Foles was in. Daniels got injured in Week 5 and they basically floundered until Week 13 against the Lions or so when Mustipher took over at center full time. The Trubisky offense was pretty bad at first when he came back, too.

16 Re: Houston/Titans, but…

Re: Houston/Titans, but really this entire season.

It has became way too easy for offenses to score late. It's become likely that given 20 seconds and no times out, an offense can start from the 25 and reach reasonably-makeable FG range.

I don't know what we need to do, but I think making DPI a max 15 yard penalty is a good start.

19 Just curious

Does anyone know the origins of why DPI is a spot foul and willing to share?  Typically there is a good back story on a foul having this degree of impact.   If I knew it I have forgotten.  
 

Thanks 

26 Spot foul

In reply to by big10freak

If i had to guess it was from back when teams just didn't throw that often or as frequently deep. I'd also suggest it wasn't as frequently enforced with defenders being more free to get their hands on receivers. 

27 I don’t know that there’s…

In reply to by big10freak

I don’t know that there’s any one specific play you can point to, but the idea is that you theoretically could be incentivizing defenders to commit PI if it’s a flat 15 yard penalty (since the penalty is better than allowing a >15 yard completion). Sort of like the reverse of the Flacco-Smith problem. 

33 You see it occasionally in…

You see it occasionally in the NCAA, where a badly beaten DB just tackles the WR early rather than give up a TD.

That happens rarely enough that it's less of a perversion of justice than a 50-yard DPI on some lame-ass wounded duck.

Mind you, that's not worse than an OL horsecollaring a DE in order to take 10 yards and a replay of the down rather than 10 yards, loss of down, and a crippled QB.

The other problem is that defensive holding is 5 yards and an auto 1st down, whereas O-holding is only 10 yards, replay down, max spot at the LOS. Offensive holding used to be 15 yards from the spot. We either need to return to that, or offensive holding needs to come along with a loss of down.

47 I agree with all your points…

I agree with all your points.

I have long felt that penalties are too skewed to favor the offense (along with many other things).  Defensive holding (or worse, illegal contact) is an automatic 1st, but offensive holding gets to replay the down?  OPI is a 10 yard penalty and replay the down but DPI is a spot foul automatic 1st, regardless of how deep it is?

The symmetry (or lack thereof) between defensive penalties and holding is particularly egregious.  If a defender commits DPI, or holding, or illegal contact, we award the offense the ball at the spot of the foul (in the case of DPI) and also give an automatic 1st down.  In other words, we assume that if the defender hadn't fouled the WR, the WR *would* have caught the ball, and not only that, but if he was short of the line to gain, he *would* have somehow made the 1st down.  Yet if a pass rusher is held, we do not assume he would have sacked the QB (or else the holding penalty would carry a loss of down).

If I was king for a day, I would not only cap DPI at 15 yards but also eliminate the concept of an "automatic 1st down" on all but the most egregious defensive penalties (e.g. personal fouls).  If the penalty yardage is enough to give a 1st down, so be it, but if its not, don't grant the automatic first.  I really get annoyed when a DB lightly bumps a WR 6 yards from the LOS and gets flagged for an illegal contact and automatic 1st on 3rd and 25. 

53 I think if you took away DPI…

I think if you took away DPI as a spot foul, it might seriously encourage a lot of blatant attempts to avoid giving up huge plays. Coaches might say, if the ball is 30 yards and you aren't in good position, interfere as the risk reward tilts in that direction.

However, I agree with you overall - the symmetry of this is very annoying. I think OPI needs to be 10 yards a loss of downs. I think all defensive holdings are yards given but not automatic first downs.

And I think we need to extend the db contact limit to 7 yards at least. That alone would have trickle down effects across the entire offense and defense 

62 Intentional DPI

I see this argument a lot around the downside of turning DPI into a 15-yd foul - that it will encourage DBs to intentionally commit DPI in cases where they are beat.

While I think you would see a few of those, I always find it odd to think how often will the DB be beat bad enough where it is a sure big gain BUT be close enough to commit the intentional DPI. I feel like if you are close enough to commit DPI on a long pass you probably are close enouhg to potentailly make a play on the ball.

As for the idea of making IC a 7-yard free zone, I'm fully for that. As well as not having def. holding and IC automatic first downs unless the contact occurs beyond the line to gain.

109 The incentive structure in NCAA v Pro is different.

In NCAA, Ryan Leaf, Joey Herrington and Ken Dorsey are all time great passers, and Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy at QB.

In Pro you have games like Rodgers v. Wilson.  If you are a DB playing in game of Rodgers v. Wilson what's the better bet, that the QB won't make the play or that you can hold it to 15 yards?

I already know the answer as a Seahawks fan.  In SB 49, on the Seattle drive before NE took the lead Malcom Butler fell down in coverage on Jermaine Kearse.  Rather than risk anything Butler reached out and grabbed Kearse's ankle tripping him.  It was a very smart play and didn't even get flagged (Butler fell down and tripped Kearse too early in the route to be seen by the refs, on the broadcast it just looked like an errant throw by Wilson).  Probably the 2nd or 3rd most critical play in the game.

Pro DBs just aren't going to be willing to make the bet on being beat and the QB not delivering the ball, and it would be a foolish coach that didn't tell them to make the intentional foul.  It's already pretty normal when the top end deep threats are pulling away their DBs intentionally hold when they're beaten.

118 In NCAA, Ryan Leaf, Joey…

In NCAA, Ryan Leaf, Joey Herrington and Ken Dorsey are all time great passers, and Tim Tebow won the Heisman Trophy at QB.

In Pro you have games like Rodgers v. Wilson.  If you are a DB playing in game of Rodgers v. Wilson what's the better bet, that the QB won't make the play or that you can hold it to 15 yards?

Tim Tebow beat a SB team in the playoffs in a 300-yard game with an 80-yard TD pass. =)

Statistically, Wilson was more productive in college than in the NFL.
https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/players/russell-wilson-1.html

The NCAA is a place where even marginal talents can be hugely prolific. If ever there was a place where DBs just tackling people would break the sport, it's here. But you don't see it.

 

82 While we're talking illegal contact

In reply to by dmstorm22

Why the hell can a WR/TE block, while the pass is in the air?  As I understand it, only legal if the pass is behind the LOS.  But what if the DB is playing close to the LOS and has a chance for an INT?  He can be blocked?  That seems wrong to me. Block after the catch like every other play.  (Never a huge fan of bubble screens, anyway)

The D can't legally interfere on a bubble screen, so why does the O get to?  Also, pretty sure I've seen this past the LOS as well.

88 An argument to leave DPI as it is

In reply to by dmstorm22

Clearly Houston would charge back and intentionally commit DPI on Brown if not a spot foul.  Now Tennessee has the ball at their own 40 with only 11 seconds left.  What do they do now?

115 Automatic first downs

Agree totally on the automatic first down.  Especially since you replay the down anyway - the defense just "stopped" their opponents on 3-15, but now the penalty requires them to go out and stop them again on 3-10.

Of course, enforcement of penalties is an artificial construct that has no "natural" reason to be symmetric; it merely reflects the NFL's preferences.  I think that the NFL would be perfectly happy if 95% of games were like the 41-38 TEN-HOU game this weekend.

30 Just have separate fouls for…

Just have separate fouls for 'incidental' DPI(10-15 yards) and cynical DPI(spot) like you used to with facemasks

(This will never happen because people are aghast at refs explicitly exercising any degree of discretion)

98 Referee discretion

This would indeed require more referee discretion and your solution is a good one.  In my example from yesterday, playing your rules, if Houston ran back and committed DPI on Brown with 11 seconds left, it would still be a spot foul, no gain in this strategy for Houston.

The NFL tries to take the referees out of the equation.  However, every offensive holding non-call this year that was called in the past is a call.

I do not understand why DPI and OPI challenges are no longer allowed.  They were rarely overturned, but if a coach wants to try for indisputable evidence on this call, I believe that he should be allowed.

As far as refereeing goes, I do not see why everything is not subject to challenge, even lining up in the neutral zone, false start, offside, or offensive holding.   There are truly phantom holding calls made.  A coach would need to understand that his chances of winning the challenge are slim, but why not allow it?

My pet peeve is the play clock, it expires, but you get to run the play.  I have no idea why the NFL does not develop a play clock similar to the shot clock in basketball that goes red and makes a sound.  You either got the play off in time or you didn't, it is that simple. The "one second extra" is so arbitrary.

18 Those clips pretty much sum…

Those clips pretty much sum up being a Lions fan.

The Lions occupy a weird position in the NFL where they are a nearly hopeless franchise, but the NFL sees fit to take an enormous shit on them at every opportunity. It's bizarre; the NFL doesn't bother with such things in the case of the Jets, Jags, or Cardinals. I suppose it does with Cleveland, but they mostly just enable Cleveland.

Not that it really matters; the Lions are better off losing. Not that that really matters; their front office consists solely of evil golems who literally have shit for brains. Still, it would be nice if one of the few old-school NFL owners who actually has a vast personal and corporate fortune (like the new-school owners) would use that combination to throw some weight around.

22 Mia-Buf

Hats off to the Bills. It's the first time in forever that a legit 12-4+ team comes out of the AFC EAST not attached to the Pats name. They're real SB contenders. It's what this division has needed for a decade. A little life, a little fun for everyone else.

As for Miami, thus ends one of the most Miami like seasons in Miami history. It had all the Miami typical season built in. It had so-so QB play, the bad start, the good middle to get back into the play off race, it had the they control their own destiney, and the terrible end. It had that so close to the playoffs but not bad enough to land a super star record. It had that "are we really building or is this the peak" feel. Speaking of that, Miami is two drafts into the new era and if one of these piled on picks is a future hall of famer, we've not seen it yet. So far, they seem like typical Miami drafts, solid first rounders and a few surprises in the late rounds but no ones jumped out and just looks wow. Which isn't good considering the pressure on Tua. Miami needs to find Tua help. Sure his top 5 wideouts missed parts of this season or the whole year, but that's par for the course for all of them. They need to find a free agent and draft a young top WR. And that's the good news, Miami has 4 picks in the first 50. I'm hoping they do better than last draft. Was there good this year, sure Fitzmagic was fun, Miami did a heck of a job in mid-tier free agent pick ups, Miami got a lot of milage out of running backs and wide outs that probably don't start anywhere else. Flores has a lot of support in Miami which is more than you can say for a head coach in Miami entering year three since... IDK Johnson? But I'm being realistic. I still think their target window is 2022 not next year and it's not clear that they're not just going to end up that 7-9 to 10-6 bland team of the last 2 decades at the end of all this. To get above that, they need real stars. Look at Tannehill now that he has stars to play with.  It isn't all Henry if you saw the pass Tanny made with 18 seconds left. One Wake for all those years, One Howard right now isn't going to cut it.   

23 Wow, that Wayne Gallman play…

Wow, that Wayne Gallman play sure made me chuckle. One of the funniest of the year, right there with Daniel Jones tripping. Not only does he lose the ball for no reason, he's so alone he has plenty of time to scoop it up, but it  gets tangled with his feet and he ends up literally sitting on it like a hen on an egg! I'm betting that goes down in history as the hen fumble.

106 We almost had Miracle in the Meadowlands part 2

If Dallas recovers the fumble and scores and wins, we have Joe Picarcik. Herm Edwards, plays to win the game and picks up the Picarcik fumble and scores.  However, Doug Pederson refused to play the role of Herm Edwards and play to win the game to get what would have gotten Dallas in.  Herm will always have his Miracle in the Meadowlands.

32 The NFL highlights without fans

allow you to often hear the players and coaches when they are voicing strong opinions

 

Case in point when the nearby ref did not throw the flag when Adams was held not once but twice Adams shouts to the ref "You cannot be f8cking serious?!!"  

 

That stuff always entertains me.

38 I didn't understand Allen…

I didn't understand Allen being in the MIA-BUF game, either, unless it was to make sure Brown and McKenzie are something their playoff opponents have to prepare for.

Miami folded up and died after that TD pass to Brown, then had brief life against Barkley until the pick-6.

The end of the PIT-CLE game was an interesting display of the pitfalls of going for 2 late vs. early.

44 Two fold

1. Get a higher seed

2. Let Allen break records

I'm fine with it. Might have been facing that defense in the playoffs anyway (until TN won).

116 Yeah higher seed was a…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Yeah higher seed was a bigger deal here than it was made out to be. Keep the two seed and you get to play Miami or Indy. Drop to 3 and you risk playing Baltimore or Tennessee, much tougher outs in my opinion. Especially Baltimore, who is shaping up to be the dark horse everyone picks so they're not really a dark horse anymore.

121 Good point

Baltimore was my pick to win the AFC. Oops(?) Then again didn't see Ronnie Stanley missing this much time, but underestimated the losses of Yanda, Hurst, etc though. Cutting Earl Thomas 3 weeks before the season also didnt help. Still think they're dangerous though. Lamar is being underrated. 

45 Pulling Hurts was…

Pulling Hurts was inexplicable and a total slap in the face to all NFL fans watching this nationally televised game.

I don't see how the advantages of playing Sudfeld -- higher draft pick, evaluating a back-up (?!) -- outweigh getting your presumptive franchise QB real-game experience in a pressure-filled comeback scenario.  Give Hurts a chance to win the game!

Also, it completely ruined what could've been an exciting SNF game.  One of the weird things about NFL coaches is the disdain they often show for fans who just want to have fun.  It's like they don't get the connection between fan enjoyment and their paychecks.  (We're on to Cincinnati.)  The NFL, to its credit, has taken some steps to remove the No Fun League label (such as allowing celebrations), but coaches need to think about this as well.  Although it's hard to believe now, given their popularity, there is no divine edict that the NFL has to be sports king forever.  (I think about this every time I can't watch an out-of-market game also.) 

I was a big Pederson fan because of his willingness to go for it so often, but this move real soured me on him.

63 I watched the game: Hurts…

I watched the game: Hurts scored two touchdowns; Sudfeld didn't get past midfield, I don't think.

But even by Quick Read stats: Hurts had -52 DYAR extrapolated to four quarters; Sudfeld had -256.

That is much worse in my book. 

95 You can't just wave away…

You can't just wave away Hurts' running value -- it's a substantial part of his game and part of what makes him valuable and exciting.  His two running touchdowns counted, right?

Hurts gave them a substantially better chance of winning than Sudfeld, and an infinitely better chance of making the game fun and enjoyable.  I don't see how (or why) anybody could argue any differently after watching the game and/or looking at the numbers (passing and running).

111 Hurts can't pass the ball at…

Hurts can't pass the ball at an NFL level. In the 9 quarters after halftime of his starts, he has 6 fumbles, 3 INTs, several dropped INTs, a horrific safety, and at least 3 missed TD easy throws to wide-open guys. He's not good. He played worse yesterday than the worst game of Wentz career by QB rating. He was deservedly benched.

Sudfeld played because Wentz was inactive.

72 On twitter, Bill Barnwell…

On twitter, Bill Barnwell has been saying that the Eagles pulling Hurts was no different from what the Steelers and Chiefs did, but the closer you look at the different situations, the more different they seem.

1) Like you say, Hurts needs the game experience, and the Eagles need to evaluate him. You don't pull a rookie QB in these situations: Herbert went the distance for the Chargers in a meaningless game, as did Tua in a blowout.

2) The injury situations are totally different, since the Steelers and Chiefs have games coming up right away. If Mahomes breaks a finger yesterday, the Chiefs postseason is ruined. If Hurts breaks a finger, it affects nothing for either him or his team. Mahomes and Roethlisberger also get a week of rest, which doesn't matter for Hurts.

3) The Chiefs and Steelers were honest and upfront about what they were doing. Pederson wasn't.

4) The Eagles know what they have in Sudfeld - a third-string QB. They didn't need to evaluate him.

5) This was a prime-time, nationally televised game with playoff implications. It was an insult to everyone watching this game that the Eagles suddenly decided not to try to win.

 

112 Hurts was 7-20 with a pick…

Hurts was 7-20 with a pick for 72 yards, he stinks. In the second half of his starts, the Eagles have scored 7, 6, 3 and zero in 1 Q yesterday. That's 16 total points in 7 quarters. 

That's awful! Wentz put up 28 in h2 v Ravens and 17 v Pitt, by way of example. And people were calling for him to be benched since September!

131 I'm insulted that Giants…

I'm insulted that Giants fans think that the Eagles owe them something...this whole thing could have been avoided if the Giants had just lost 9 games instead of 10. The ONLY reason the game had meaning was because of the repeated FAILURES of the Giants, but now the Eagles are the bad guys because the Giants aren't good enough to win 7 games?

132 For me, the Giants outrage…

For me, the Giants outrage is hilarious. And because they were the direct victims of it is a delicious bit of irony given how thoroughly undeserved their playoff birth would be.

My big issue with it is how it was handled. Look, the Eagles knew coming in exactly what the situation was draft wise. So why not just telegraph you are doing this by sitting Hurts from the start. At least then we could stop pretending this was anything other than a wasted game. Instead, he let Hurts play and he teased long enough to make things interesting. And then yanked him seemingly at random. 

The whole process was strange from the start. 

74 Wasn't a slap in my face

The slap was putting two (still) below .500 teams on national TV. Don't know how a couple bad teams can make an exciting game outside of hilarity of bad football.

Also possible they saw enough from Hurts and will move on from him (or at least wont build around him, not me personally) or they DO and just didnt want get their investment hurt in a meaningless game just to...have a worse pick to help him with? Also playing Sudfield might (somehow) pump up his own trade value. 

Personally, I think it's cool to actually see teams be forward thinking. Because I was pissed when the Packers let Rodgers and company play week 17 vs the Lions and Rodgers ended up "just" getting concussed...again. 

78 The "fear of catastrophic…

The "fear of catastrophic injury" argument does make a little bit of sense, especially since the pass rush is the strongest element of the Football Team. But if that's the case, why did he play for 75% of the game? If there was, say, a 8% chance of Hurts suffering a catastrophic injury, was it really that important to reduce that number to 6%? 

87 I suppose

it would be good to reduce it as much as you can as soon as you can. I reckon they were still evaluating (they had to be, with such a small sample size) but I guess that was the time that risk outweighed the evaluating portion. I guess I'll concede (for once!) they knew how much to push the envelope, when they combined it with what they saw in practice. 

Besides had they started Sudfield, people would still be angry (even though they say they wouldn't). Gotta strike a balance.

84 "Don't know how a couple bad…

"Don't know how a couple bad teams can make an exciting game outside of hilarity of bad football."

Here's the thing. Bad teams can equal exciting football. I've seen it from the old Browns and Bengals. Between the Raiders and Chiefs(back when both were bad). 

But so far, every NFC east game has been a miserable suckfest. Even last night's game was just ugly to watch. 

89 I suppose

Football is fun to watch in general but let's not act like this was the best SNF game this year. In fact, tell me a worse one, going into the game. I cant think of any. But when two (might I remind, still) below .500 teams play each w/one already eliminated from the playoffs, I'm not surprised the game was a suckfest in which Washington...couldnt even cover against a team that completed...13/33 passes.

Baaaaaaaaaaaaaaad teams = baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad game

99 I'm sympathetic to the NFL…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I'm sympathetic to the NFL for choosing this for the SNF game.  It was the only one that was guaranteed to have substantial playoff implications regardless of the earlier games.  And there is a decent chance it was going to be close.  (I'll take a close game between bad teams over a blowout between decent teams.)   In fact, it was close and was shaping up to be an exciting finish until Sudafed came in.

(I'm keeping the Sudfeld-to-Sudafed autocorrect because dude gave me all the side effects: nausea, vomiting, trouble sleeping, dizziness, headache, and nervousness.)

56 It seems to me that…

It seems to me that yesterday's events were the worst possible outcome for the Bears. They were competitive for just long enough to preserve the illusion that this team can hang with anyone. And hey! They are in the playoffs. Doesn't matter how you get there right?

Again, I am agnostic about the coaching staff in general, but obviously given how they've arrived here, this team needs a shakeup. And yet, this kind of fools gold might con ownership into thinking they are all on the right track. 

Truth is, this is an average football team. They will beat who you expect and lose to who you expect. That's a treadmill to nowhere interesting.  

64 It's a big if, but *if* they…

It's a big if, but *if* they can get their hands on a better QB I think they have a solid foundation here. Nagy is good enough; he's not Reid or Belichick but he's good enough to succeed in the NFL. As a Packers fan, I've never felt comfortable against the Bears even with Trubisky at QB, but against the Lions (for example) I always have felt comfortable.

Who could they get? I don't think Cam is an option at this point. They'll probably draft somebody, but Jameis and Wentz are out there. Wentz contract is a killer though.

70 They are roughly in the same…

They are roughly in the same position as the Colts, though I think Reich is a better coach than Naggy.

In years past, mid tier first rounders would fall to fringe contenders. Not anymore so there are no obvious options. 

The chiefs with Alex Smith and the Texans pre Watson were in this situation and it took two first rounders plus some change to grab their qbs. And while those moves look awesome with hindsight, there is no guarantee you get Mahomes and Watson instead of say Rosen and Darnold. Just how big of a disaster would that be for those teams if they had been busts( although somehow Houston won 4 games anyways)

 

83 Carr, maybe Stafford or Ryan

Cam looks done. Jameis probably isn't an upgrade. Darnold makes little sense. Probably better to stick with Trubisky than go with Garoppolo. Wentz... I mean do the Eagles realize they might have to give up a pick to get rid of him? Who is trading real assetts to pay Wentz that much money to be one of, if not the worst, QBs in the league? The Bears probably have to move a decent pick to get Carr. The Lions might not want to move Stafford to the Bears, so he'd have to be cut which seems unlikely. Ryan... okay but who is he throwing too? 

That's the other issue for the Bears, they're close to being in cap hell, with Hicks and Fuller as likely cap causalities, no QB, and Robinson likely moving on due to the Bears cap situation. So even if you bring in Ryan, Stafford, Carr... I don't think that gets the Bears past the Packers considering the needs at wide receiver, the secondary, an aging front seven, and an offensive line which might be a mirage since we have such a small sample size of the line being solid. 

My guess is Mitch is back on what's basically a one year deal, the Bears make a few tweaks through out the lineup, go 6-10 or 7-9 and the FO is fired roughly a year from today.

 

90 Wentz

I am always teetering between rage and terror when I see Indy/Reich connected with Wentz.  Please, no.

Yeah, the Colts paid $45M for QBs this year, but that was financial hangover from Luck's last minute retirement and deciding to pay Brissett like a big boy on the low end of starter range, but way too high for a backup, even if he's the short yardage specialist.

I can think of any number of QBs who I think are clearly better than Wentz and who might come to market, even if they are 30-ish.  The list is headed by Prescott (27-28?) and he'd be worth Wentz's salary, assuming he's healed.  Stafford, Ryan, getting older and less mobile.  I might even take Darnold over Wentz!  And surely Rivers for $25M one more year, but I'd like to see a future plan.  In the interim, maybe Eason develops in the background.  As a Seattleite, I was never particularly impressed with him in college at Washington, but he has a fine arm and if he can iron out the inconsistencies, he could be a playoff-winning starter on a team with a solid rushing attack and D. (I also thought Jake Locker would have made a better RB than QB in college, and when TEN drafted him #8 to be a QB, I was stunned.  So were they when he was out of football after about 20 starts in four years.)

97 In the interim, maybe Eason…

In reply to by Bobman

In the interim, maybe Eason develops in the background.  As a Seattleite, I was never particularly impressed with him in college at Washington, but he has a fine arm and if he can iron out the inconsistencies, he could be a playoff-winning starter on a team with a solid rushing attack and D.

Eason is the opposite of an Allenian project who fell through the cracks. 

He was the son of an NFL QB, who was middling at best for two different BCS-caliber college teams. If he hasn't put it together by now, he's never going to.

101 Damn I can't believe I…

In reply to by Bobman

Damn I can't believe I forgot about Dak. He just might make it to free agency with the injury and the cap decline that is about to happen. A LOT of teams are going to make a run for him if he makes it to the free market.

113 Other than his cap hit

In reply to by Bobman

Wentz is the best option, he was ranked 6th in QBR from 2017-19, before a year behind a OLine full of 3rd and 4th stringers, no WRs, no TEs for multiple games and no Sanders for half the season. Unitas would not have played well behind this line, nor Manning.

119 Yup, the window of time…

Yup, the window of time where the Bears had a great defense and just needed to find a league-average offense is closing, if it hasn't already slammed shut. I think whether they know it or not, they're headed for a rebuild. I think the next great QB they have (which will also be their first) will be drafted, not traded for or signed in free agency.

135 The Bears innate defensive…

The Bears innate defensive competence is matched by their insane offensive ineptitude. The fact that Walter Payton is still the franchise leader in passing receptions is objectively absurd. I know hes a hall of famer, but he was a running back all the way in the 80s to boot. 

149 The problem is that the…

The problem is that the foundation is talented but not structurally sound from a team-building perspective. The O Line has overpaid players; they could really use upgrades at the tackle positions. Allen Robinson is probably gone; I'm not sure how they could fit an extension with him under the cap, and he seems (justifiably) angry at the team anyway. The D has been good but also bad this year; it probably could use some tweaks...

But the problem with all of this is, they're so capped up that they don't really have any room to make upgrades. Even if they got a better QB on a rookie deal, the rest of the roster is probably taking a step back.

Ryan Pace came from the mid-2010s Saints FO, and I remember those teams as being ridiculously against the cap each year and yet somehow always making it even worse the next year, while also having fatal flaws in talent. But they had Drew Brees and Sean Payton, and they made it work, kind of. Not so in Chicago.

120 I agree. I'm willing to…

I agree. I'm willing to believe that Nagy might improve as a head coach, and I don't think he's bad enough that he has to be fired. I fear that the playoff appearance, after going 3-7 in the final 10 games of the season and securing a playoff seed that literally did not exist until this season, will save Pace's job. I predict they still won't have won a playoff game under Pace, and they still have only 1 winning season out of 6, but his defenders will say "they've made the playoffs two out of the last three years; you can't fire him!"

Which bothers me, because when the Bears were 14-34 after Pace's third season, everyone said that you couldn't judge him on record at that point because the team had so little talent when he took over and it was going to take time to build the team. Okay, fine. But if you grade him on a curve for that, you have to apply the opposite adjustment to consecutive 8-8 seasons in years 5 and 6 even when you happen to back into the playoffs in that second year. Clearly the standard should be different after Pace has had the opportunity to build basically the entire team.

148 I don't really think they…

I don't really think they were that competitive. The opening drive was strong, but they let Rodgers burn right down the field back; they took the lead next based on a fumble by the GB PR, but after that Rodgers got almost whatever he wanted and the offense was swimming in oatmeal (albeit somehwat effectively; Go Bears!). But I had no doubt of the outcome once it was 21-10.

I'm kind of meh about the coaching staff. I do like Nagy because I form an irrational attachment to any Bears coach who doesn't believe the forward pass is an abomination against nature, but I'm dead set on getting Pace outta there and Nagy's not worth stopping that.

You're right about them being an average football team. The big problem is that there aren't a lot of clear ways for them to improve. The team is capped out, they're likely to lose their best WR, they have some key defensive contributors getting older, the O Line needs upgrades but has some expensive parts it would be hard to replace, and they've committed a large amount of money to a QB who is ideally the backup next season. If they somehow found a genius QB I could see them taking a step forward, otherwise I think they've run out of moves.

152 I agree with this entirely. …

I agree with this entirely.  The main argument against Nagy seems to be "the offense is still mediocre at best", which is fair, but also impacted greatly by the lack of a good QB.  (I don't buy the argument that Trubisky's lack of improvement is on Nagy, at least not significantly.)

And as you say, Pace is the bigger problem - mainly for the misuse of draft assets (he trades up frequently for guys like David Montgomery (who looks good, but is still a mid-round RB) and Anthony Miller) and the miss on Trubisky when Watson was a realistic choice (I won't ding him for passing on Mahomes at the time, personally).  His free agency record is mixed; guys like Danny Trevathan and Tashaun Gipson were great value, but then you have Jimmy Graham and Robert Quinn.  I think they need a more "cynical" GM, one who doesn't fall in love with specific guys and instead is lets value come to him.

So my feeling is they should only fire Nagy if they don't believe they can attract a good GM without also allowing that GM to pick their own coach.

At QB, it's tougher.  Pace has traded away enough picks to where I wouldn't gamble on a big trade-up to get Fields, so you have to hope that you strike gold with a mid-round pick.  Unless Trubisky is willing to come back on something like a one-year, $13 million deal.  I suspect someone will offer him more, though.

123 Steelers did what the Eagles did, use 3rd stringer

The Steelers put their third string QB in.  I did not see the game, but the Steelers 3rd string QB went 4-5 for 2 yards (no relation to Alex Smith) and had 2 carries for decent yardage.  Had the Steelers won, Miami, not Cleveland would have made the playoffs. Mason Rudolph had an awesome game. I do not understand how this has flown under the radar since this was so similar to the Eagles situation.  I guess the national exposure on SNF makes all the difference.

Now instead of tanking, how about this theory.  Other games were already decided.  The Steelers needed to lose so that they could play Cleveland next week.