Football Outsiders
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Thanksgiving Day Open Game Discussion

Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

The biggest game on Thursday pits a pair of playoff contenders against each other as Josh Allen leads the Buffalo Bills (8-3) into Dallas to play the Cowboys (6-5). Earlier, the Chicago Bears (5-6) face the Detroit Lions (3-7-1) and somebody called David Blough, while the night game pits New Orleans (9-2) against Atlanta (3-8). Use this thread to discuss them all. 

Comments

78 comments, Last at 30 Nov 2019, 2:04pm

2 Pucks

Beara 27, Lions 17
Cowboys 24, Bills 20
Saints 37, Falcons 23

4 Well, the Lions came to play…

Well, the Lions came to play. That's an amazing play if Prater really meant to drive the kickoff off of the Bears player. Interesting to call for an onside kick while leading by a touchdown. I suppose when you have an undrafted rookie at QB it makes sense to continue with underdog tactics even if you are ahead.

9 After the onside kick pulled…

After the onside kick pulled off by the Dolphins last week, I wasn't sure anyone else would be able to do it. I guess Prater found a new twist to keep it relevant. 

Of course, Buck and Aikman were completely unaware of what the Dolphins did just last week. Idiots.

5 Absurd (by modern NFL…

Absurd (by modern NFL standards) non-roughing call on Trubisky there. Tough to know what the refs are seeing sometimes.

6 Lions playing in grey? The…

Lions playing in grey?

The NFL really does seem to do anything it can to break fan connections to the past.

7 Joe Buck introducing Barry…

Joe Buck introducing Barry Sanders: "Did you know that four of the first five picks of the '89 draft produced Hall of Famers?" Yes, all Packers fans know we drafted Tony Mandarich after Aikman and before Barry Sanders, Derrick Thomas, and Deion Sanders. We don't need to be reminded.

16 Mandarich

If it makes you feel any better, recall that Mandarich was regarded as the best lineman to come out of college in years, I've even seen the description "best offensive line prospect ever"!  Evidently a combination of steroid and painkiller use really messed him up.  It's always frustrating to have a high draft pick not pan out, but it seems as if talent evaluation is a combination of careful, objective judgement, seat-of-the-pants impression, and a crapshoot.  I don't know what percentage to assign to each. 

23 Same thing happened to the…

In reply to by young curmudgeon

Same thing happened to the Raiders in 2004 when they took tackle Robert Gallery as 2nd pick (behind ElI and ahead of Rivers/Roethlisberger etc).  Everybody said he'd be an All-Pro lock for the next decade. He scraped by as a guard in the end.

47 The best part is, the press…

The best part is, the press kept calling him "the best o-line prospect since Mandarich."

Of course, they did the same for D'Brickashaw the next year, and he turned out fine, if something less than legendary.

I'm pretty sure Trent Williams and Russ Okung both got that tongue bath too, although by that point audiences were catching onto those flights of fancy by the draft hypespeople (and the agents almost certainly feeding them).

It's weird how that only seems to be said for certain positions. You never hear about "the best DT prospect since Emtman" or "the best QB prospect since Marinovich" or whatever (although now I have some dim recollection of Luck being called 'the best QB prospect since Eli'? More backhanded compliments have rarely been uttered...).

I'm honestly more of a baseball guy, and there it's usually "[guy] is the best high-school righthander since Josh Beckett." Both Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner were that, and I think Taillon too. At least Beckett turned out to be pretty great (although I have to say, after 2003 I thought he was in line for about a hundred Cy Youngs and a Hall plaque. A few All-Star appearances and I think a 2nd place CY finish felt weirdly disappointing, as massively unfair as that is).

56 As a Jets fan, I can tell it…

As a Jets fan, I can tell it's the "best interior lineman since Aaron Donald", and yeah, that's Leonard Williams and now Quinnen Williams.  D'brickashaw worked out better than Leonard, but I'd take Trent Williams over any of them.

67 You're right about Mandarich…

In reply to by young curmudgeon

You're right about Mandarich as a prospect. I still don't blame the Packers for drafting him. There were some who thought he should be drafted before Aikman and both were considered better than any other prospects that year. Barry Sanders and Derrick Thomas were undersized for their positions, and Neon Deion was going to be great but would have never stayed in Green Bay. It's more frustrating than anything else. Plus, Infante's firing led to Ron Wolf and Holmgren and all the subsequent goodness through today which alleviates any bitterness. Mandarich did become a competent tackle for Indy for a short time, but I think he was just over the NFL and retired. 

10 Trubisky gives up a first…

Trubisky gives up a first and goal by giving up on a run. How Trubisky of him.

Of course, I'm thrilled to let the Bears put the game in the hands (feets) of Eddie Pineiro.

11 trubisky is such a dummy

was within 1 yard of the marker to pick up the 1st down but decided to instead run away from contact and ran ten yards to the left and back.

Dummy.

12 David Blough is looking…

David Blough is looking pretty good in his Lions debut. He has good pocket awareness, can get the ball downfield to receivers and hasn't made any dumb mistakes. Looks very mature as a QB despite lack of NFL experience. How did he go undrafted?

14 Right now he looks like he's…

Right now he looks like he's in the Nick Mullens and Gardner Minshew club of guys who look way, way better as inexperienced QBs than they should based on their status coming out of college. Mullens was about as good last year for the 49ers as Garoppolo has been this season and Minshew has a better DVOA than Nick Foles. Yet another reminder that no one evaluating prospects has any idea what they are doing.

15 The challenge in part is…

The challenge in part is likely related to how team-oriented football is.  For young QBs in particular, it has to be really difficult to assess the QB when how they look is so dependent on the personnel around them and the scheme they're running. 

65 Having played football for…

Having played football for three different teams, I always learned the most in the first and second year of a joining a team. 

A different way of practicing, a different offense and defense, different responsibilities on the field all makes you a much better football player.

Which makes me think. If you find two otherwise identical college players with identical stats, the one who played in two different systems/teams/coaches will be the better prospect.

17 Blough also had a some good…

Blough also had a some good players to rely on. Scarborough is turning into a pretty good back and the Lions have a decent receiving corps with Marvin Jones, Amendola, and (is he still underrated) Golliday. 

21 You are correct that he…

You are correct that he looks much better than Driskel. David Blough being better than a sixth round journeyman is not an flaw of the QB evaluation system; they're both low probability successes. The QB evaluation system is still horrible for all the reasons mentioned by many; maybe someone could write an offseason article about it. 

71 Just to pick a nit

This was true earlier in the season, but Garappolo has pulled ahead now:

 

BDN (2018/8 Games): DVOA 4.2% - TD/INT 13/10 - C% 65.2 - AY/A 7.6

Garappolo (2019/10 Games): DVOA 8.6% - TD/INT 20/10 - C% 69.3% - AY/A 8.1

Going from 7.6 AY/A to ~8.1 AY/A is the difference between Phillip Rivers and Lamar Jackson/Deshaun Watson (8.0) in passing this year. 

25 I really don't get the…

I really don't get the growing clamor asking for Patricia's firing lately. I have no skin in this game, but from what I can see :

1- The Lions have not been a bad team this year. They haven't been good either, granted, the DVOA is middling, and for a defensive minded coach, the defensive performance has indeed been disappointing at times. However, they have been really competitive all year. They had the lead in every game they played, often as late as the 4th quarter, all their games were one possession games, except against the Vinkings but it was still a close one.

They had some tough luck too, injury wise and with some very questionable calls on the field. So I would say the rebuild and culture change is well under way, and the team shows good signs of progress, given the circonstances.

2- Matt Patricia is in the second year of his head coaching job, and i don't recall him doing anything egregiously bad that would justify an early dismissal.

According to a quick google search, during the 53 years since the merger, the Lions have had 17 different coches, so the average tenure is just a little bit over 3 years. That's an insane way to run an organisation, and probably one of the reason the franchise has, in the said 53 season, only 1 (!) playoff win (Div round 1992). Seriously, let's think about that.

Because, for the last 15 years, the Browns and Jets have been comically bad (sometimes litteraly, on this butt fumble anniversary), and the Lions have only been around below average, I feel that we collectively have lost sight of the level of ineptitude the Lions operate at historically. I mean, the very high point of this franchise in the modern era, one post season win in 53 seasons, has been the equivalent of a failed season in New England for the last 20 years

So maybe getting rid of the head coach over and over again is the surest way to condemn a team to NFL purgatory (definition of insanity and all that...)

 

31 Lolwut, the Jets have not…

Lolwut, the Jets have not been comically bad for the last 15 years. They've been bad for about the last four years (including this season). I don't see how an NFL fan could forget the Jets consecutive appearances in the AFC Championship game. Before that they basically alternated winning and losing season during the Chad Pennington era. They were up and down again until 2016, since which they've been poor. But the last two seasons have been part of a rebuild with a new QB, during which losing is expected. The Jets are not a fantastic organization, but they aren't terrible either. I don't know where people have got that idea. It's not based in reality.

36 Whoa there, the Jets became…

Whoa there, the Jets became comical when they used a top 5 draft pick on buttfumbler Mark Sanchez. 

I admit that was actually 15 years ago, but the Jets have not actually improved from that point.

 

39 Comical yes, bad no. When…

Comical yes, bad no. When you go to the conference championship in back to back years you're not a bad team by any stretch of the imagination. 

But yeah a super comical organization even when they were winning. 

46 Yeah, just could not resist…

Yeah, just could not resist including the Jets when I was typing the word comical on Thanksgiving, did not mean to get into an actual examination of the Jets recent legacy.

I have a simple theory on why people think they are worse than they actually are (a point I agree with, they were never real pushovers): the stark contrast with the team up north, both in results and image.

You have to admit tough, that they really do not help themselves in the image department, from the years of the butt fumble and the Rex Ryan antics (hard knocks Fbombs, the Sanchez jersey tatoo and the foot fetish rumors) to their  weirdness this spring (GM firing timing, Gase crazy eyes presser) via stuff like Geno Smith getting his jaw broken by a teammate over a few bucks. So still, rather comical, and maybe why the Jets give of such a dysfunctional vibe...

And not to argue over details, but I feel they have not been good for longer than 4 years. They had a lone decent season under Bowles (10-6 ?), but since the championships of '09 and '10, it's been mediocre at best (i'm ok with "up and down" if up is 8-8). So it's been 9 years of mainly irrelevance, a rather long time in this league where worst to first is not that uncommun.

34 The defense is worse than…

The defense is worse than the talent on field, and has been getting worse as the year has progressed. There is not enough QB pressure, and poor defense against the run. Sounds like a bizarro  Belichick defense up front. 

This is just another example of a Belichick acolyte failing, starting with Crennel and Mangini.

22 Despite their lead in the…

Despite their lead in the standings the Bills schedule makes me believe they still have a good chance of missing the playoffs. They are definite underdogs against the Cowboys, Ravens or Patriots. The Steelers are mediocre but the Bills get them on the road. They do play the Jets at home but with the recent improvement we've seen from the Jets that could be a tough game too. I can easily see them finishing the season 1-4 for a final record of 9-7 and having their fate decided by tiebreakers.

24 BUF vs. DAL

Robopunter vs. Robopunter! I'm so here for this punting exhibition.

28 He may be tired of hearing…

He may be tired of hearing about last sunday's 4th and 7.

And he may be coaching for his job.

I have nothing against the Cowboys, but I would really like a Bills win tonight, just to see what happens, given the latest quotes by Jerry....

32 That's extremely aggressive…

That's extremely aggressive. I think probably too aggressive. At your own 20 you are 45 yards away from even being in FG range. There's little immediate upside to converting and a huge downside to failing.

27 feels like

that decision was motivated in part by all the criticism Garrett has taken the past four days.

38 The biggest question of this…

The biggest question of this game now is: did the Cowboys lose money to pay Ellie Goulding for the halftime show, or did they pay premium royalties for a fake? We never actually saw her face under that hat, right?

40 Bills

Like I said, no way they're 25th best in the NFL or wherever DVOA had them.

41 That was last week. With…

In reply to by Sid

That was last week. With their win over Denver Buffalo went all the way up to 14th. Still slightly below average in DVOA, but firmly out of the 'incredibly bad for a team in a playoff spot' range.

43 ok

when I checked the ratings I guess it was before Week 12 was released.

 

25th was ludicrous. They've played a weak schedule, like New England, but DVOA had them behind Atlanta! There's no comparison between Atlanta and Buffalo.

59 Dallas Ludicrous Too

In reply to by Sid

3-6 last nine games. No wins against teams with winning records. DVOA persists in thinking Cowboys are at elite level. Laughable

48 DVOA is still going to like…

DVOA is still going to like this Dallas performance more than the general public will. Just look at the Cowboys last three drives. They've moved the ball just fine only to be undone by two missed FGs and a turnover on downs.

52 OTOH, their defense totally…

And while all the public focus will be on the apparent failures of their offense and head coach, it will likely ignore that their defense totally sucked. Allowing Josh Allen to complete 80% of his passes for 9.5 YPA - not good. DVOA probably won't like that either. 

49 Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

I'm thankful for my hometown Winnipeg Blue Bombers finally winning the Grey Cup after 5 failed tries in the big game. Lost Ti-cats Fan, I'm sorry your team had to lose. I hope you're happy with the results in the NFL today!

51 Grey Cup stage was too big…

Grey Cup stage was too big for the Ti-Cats last Sunday.  Interception on their first possession, fumble on their second possession and they never looked right.

Big credit to the Bombers, though.  3rd-and-1 conversions should be close to automatic, but Winnipeg stopped two Hamilton drives on 3rd-and-1, which kept them from getting back into the game.  That's huge effort and winning in the trenches.

Winnipeg was fully deserving of the win.  They out-coached and out-played Hamilton.  I'm happy for Manitoba, it's been a long-time coming.

53 I take back everything I…

I take back everything I said earlier this week about DVOA being a better measure of the quality of the Dallas team than their win-lose record. Boy, was I wrong.

54 They still moved the ball…

They still moved the ball well on offense all game, against a good defense. Let down by a couple of turnovers, failed 4th down attempts, and missed kicks. But I'm still preapred to believe DVOA that this is a quality unit. 

Their defense OTOH, getting carved up by Josh Allen, and unable to get off the field in the second half - definitely not good. 

61 This is a Quality Unit

Yep.. 3-6 last nine games. Yep.. Can't beat a team with a winning record.. Yep.. blow every big drive that matters... Yep.. let Josh Allen walk all over them.  Cowboys will probably end up 7-9 but DVOA will still think they're a playoff team

62 Dallas DVOA

Dallas's Defensive/SP teams DVOA is going to get smacked this week. On the offensive side of the ball they moved the ball reasonably well on offense. The two missed FG's really damage what was a pretty decent offensive performance (despite 3 fumbles) against a really good defense. On the other side of the ball the Bills suck on offense and the Cowboys allowed them to move the ball pretty well all day. The Bills passing offense in particular has been consistently bad all year; the Cowboys pass rush really did a terrible job with both contain and the application of pressure, though I thought the coverage was OK most of the time. It's hard to win a game when your DL plays that bad.

69 To be clear, I meant the…

To be clear, I meant the offense was a quality unit. They were shut down by the Patriots in a rainstorm - no real shame there. And last night they generally moved the ball well against another good defense, but found various ways to come away from their drives with no points. No need to panic there.

But the defense last night was bad. I’ll allow that the Buffalo pass offense may be slowly improving, but to allow Allen to complete 80%, to the tune of 9.5 ypa and zero turnovers, is going to be punished by DVOA.

55 Was Taysom Hill really…

Was Taysom Hill really Bridgewater's backup? I thought the Saints signed a different QB to keep Hill as the emergency QB

57 I hope all these onside kick…

I hope all these onside kick recovers today kills that terrible idea to replace them with a single 4th-and-15 play.

63 Atlanta recovered 3 onside…

Atlanta recovered 3 onside kicks last night without bouncing the ball off the opposition.

Only 2 of them counted because this is the year NFL refs just make sh*t up and called offsides on a guy who didn't look offsides in real time and was confirmed on replay to be no where near offsides

66 absolutely agree. It reminds…

absolutely agree. It reminds me of the NBA nonsense I can't stand, where a team calls a timeout after an opponent's basket and gets the ball down at the other end of the court to start play. It's the kind of rule that goes against the spirit of competition. It rewards the losing team with an advantage. 

73 Randomness is an integral…

Randomness is an integral part of the game, so I'd have no issue with that. Much better than the possibility of having refs decide the game, which is much more likely on a 4th-and-15 pass than on an onside kick; one dubious illegal contact or defensive holding penalty and the offense suddenly gets possession.

74 The question is should there…

The question is should there be more randomness. Just because there is, isnt a good reason that we need more.

There is no choice between ref calls and randomness. Just because there is randomness from ref calls doesnt mean we need games decided by randomness from onside kicks.

 

75 Wait, if you consider ref…

Wait, if you consider ref calls to be random as well then you're admitting that there's randomness either way, so why choose the randomness that can be caused by human error?

The entire point of onside kicks is to provide a low but not minuscule chance for a team to have two offensive possessions in a row. If you want to remove randomness from that goal you could have a QB try to throw the ball through a hoop, but that would just be silly, and the 4th-and-15 idea isn't much better. Instead of criticizing the randomness inherent in onside kicks, how about offering an alternative?

76 Theres no choice between…

Theres no choice between referee randomness and onside kicks. 

I think a small amount of kicking has a place in football, so I wouldnt change much to the kickoff rules. If a coach really wants to make it a priority ans d a point of emphasis he can practice it more.