AFC Divisional Round Preview 2021

Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes
Kansas City Chiefs QB Patrick Mahomes
Photo: USA Today Sports Images

While veteran quarterbacks are the theme of the NFC divisional round, it is youth that is served in the AFC. Three of the remaining starters were drafted in 2018, and the other in 2017. That latter quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, is shooting for his second straight Super Bowl title. The biggest remaining Cinderella, Cleveland, will be standing in his way. On the other side of the bracket, Baltimore and Buffalo present a excellent matchup of two well-rounded teams that have peaked in recent weeks.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the Football Outsiders stats, they are explained at the bottom of the page. Scroll down or click this link. Game charting data appears courtesy Sports Info Solutions, unless noted. All stats represent regular season only, except for weighted DVOA and anything else specifically noted.

Baltimore at Buffalo

DVOA 18.6% (7) 23.8% (4)
WEI DVOA 22.3% (6) 35.5% (1)
Ravens on Offense
DVOA 4.3% (11) -2.2% (12)
WEI DVOA 9.4% (7) -6.7% (11)
PASS 13.9% (17) 2.2% (12)
RUSH 6.0% (3) -8.2% (17)
Bills on Offense
DVOA -6.9% (9) 15.6% (5)
WEI DVOA -7.7% (8) 20.2% (4)
PASS 0.4% (10) 43.3% (3)
RUSH -18.5% (12) -15.0% (22)
Special Teams
ST DVOA 7.4% (2) 5.9% (4)

All readers can click here for the open in-game discussion thread. If you have FO+, you can click here to see all the matchup of DVOA splits for this game.

Five quarterbacks went in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft, but two were singled out for particular criticism.

From the -- let's be polite and call them "traditionalist" -- segment of draft analysis, Lamar Jackson received criticism that his athletic style of play wasn't fit to play quarterback in the NFL. Bill Polian famously implored him to move to wide receiver and he was asked to perform receiver drills at the combine. From the other side of the draft spectrum, the analytics community was far from convinced that Josh Allen would succeed in the NFL. A howitzer without a targeting system, Allen was the kind of big-armed draft prospect that first gets coaches drooling, and then fired when they are inevitably unable to convert big arm talent into workable accuracy.

Three seasons later, the two most-maligned quarterbacks of the draft class are among the league's elite. Former MVP Jackson shook off accusations that his stuff wouldn't work in the postseason as the Ravens handled the Titans in their wild-card matchup. Allen, after one of the greatest year-to-year-to-year improvements we have ever seen, helped the Bills to their first postseason win since 1995, a comfortable victory over the Colts. Both players have proved their doubters wrong, joining the top echelon of NFL quarterbacks, and will clash in arguably the most fascinating divisional-round matchup this year.

Oh, and about 100 other players will be on the field too. Almost forgot about that, what with the narrative and all.


Chart 1

As Rivers McCown pointed out in our wild-card preview, the identity of the Baltimore offense revolves around Lamar Jackson and the running game. It's not just planned runs and blocking schemes, although the Ravens are very good at that and ranked first in the NFL in rushing attempts. It's also Jackson's ability to turn any man coverage situation into a long scramble, taking advantage of defenders with their backs turned to scamper through defenders, turning checkdowns or throwaways into game-changing plays. At the same time, when that run game has been stymied, the Ravens have struggled, ranking 25th second-and-long DVOA and spending most of the year underwater in third-/fourth-and-long situations until a late-season surge.

We saw both of those statements hold true against Tennessee in the wild-card round. Baltimore had a -27.7% rushing DVOA in the first quarter and a -10.6% rushing DVOA for the first half, with a success rate of just 29%. They were routinely facing long downs and distances; only two of their 11 second downs in the first half were shorter than 5 yards. It took a spectacular Jackson improvisation against man coverage for Baltimore to find the end zone; their offense was more or less stuck in neutral.

In the second half, however, Baltimore made some key adjustments and found their groove, watching their run DVOA jump up to 65.5% with a 61% success rate. Their average second-down distance dropped from 8.5 yards to go to 6.9, and they were off to the races. Keeping on schedule is important for any team, but especially so for Baltimore. They were one of only three teams to have a higher DVOA when rushing than passing on both second and third downs. The Ravens were first in rushing DVOA on third and fourth downs, and fifth when rushing with a lead in the second half. More so than any other good team in the NFL, the Ravens need the running game to be a viable threat in order to win football games.

"A viable threat" does not, however, necessarily mean running all the time. The adjustments the Ravens made in the second half against the Titans were just as much about the passing game as the running game, and while their passing DVOA didn't shoot through the roof like their running DVOA did (though it did improve in the second half, going from -22.0% to 22.7%), those changes opened up the offense as a whole and got it moving.

The Ravens were fifth in the league in passing DVOA on first downs -- better than Kansas City, better than Tennessee, better than Tampa Bay. Baltimore's passing DVOA is 38.9% on first downs, and -0.7% on all other downs, the largest gap in the league. Part of that does come from a surprise factor -- only New England and Tennessee passed less often on first downs than Baltimore did -- but part of it is because the run game is such a threat. Teams leak their safeties up in the box to help in run support, sacrifice defenders to spy on Jackson, and play softer zones to avoid the risk of a busted coverage allowing a rusher to scamper into open space. In turn, that leaves receivers open for huge gains, and allows the run/pass option to be exceptionally deadly -- Baltimore will just attack whichever option you choose not to defend. These advantages go away somewhat on second- and third-and-long, however.

In the first half of the wild-card game, the Titans did a great job of staying home and playing their assignments, letting their safeties shoot into the gaps to take away Baltimore's counter rushing attack. So, in the second half, Baltimore adjusted to start throwing shorter, quick passes to free receivers, taking advantage of soft Titans coverage. Without safety help over the top, Tennessee gave plenty of cushion to receivers to try to avoid huge plays. Marquise Brown averaged 7.7 yards of pre-snap cushion and 3.7 yards of separation per Next Gen Stats, and Mark Andrews wasn't far behind in either category; no other team last weekend had two receivers with at least 7 yards of free space when targeted. Add in Patrick Ricard slipping out into the flat -- the normal blocking fullback had a career-high four targets, further bamboozling a Titans defense trying to key against the run -- and you get an offense that kicked into gear. And a Ravens offense kicking into gear is a frightening offense indeed.

It's not a good matchup for the Bills, in all honesty -- matching the 17th-ranked run defense against the third-ranked run offense isn't a great look. Buffalo was fifth in the league with 127 missed tackles, with A.J. Klein and Tremaine Edmunds both particularly standing out as poor options. Buffalo will need Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer to do a lot of work in this one, both in the box as extra support and over the top as last-resort defenders. Buffalo also ranks 26th against the pass on first downs, and just 23rd against top receivers -- do not be surprised if Jackson looks to target Brown early and often. Tre'Davious White is great, yes, but he doesn't tend to shadow one receiver; Leslie Frasier's defense tends to keep its corners to one side or another. There's also the catch-22 of how to play defense against the Ravens. Soft zones give plenty of room for first-read, stress-free decisions; playing tight man runs the risk of Jackson taking off and dashing through the open field. For what it's worth, the Bills played zone coverage about 60% of the time during the regular season, but generally do try to play fairly tight coverage with their corners; no Colts player had more than 6.3 yards of cushion when targeted in the wild-card round, and Colts not named T.Y. Hilton all had 5.5 yards per cushion or less.

Expect Baltimore to try to get Brown matched up against Levi Wallace or Josh Norman for some deep shots, but the remainder of the Bills secondary did a good job taking away the Colts' offensive playmakers last week. Wallace and Norman were only targeted twice by Indianapolis and gave up just one 6-yard reception; instead, it was White who gave up five receptions for 67 yards and missed three tackles. That's out of character and I wouldn't count on that to repeat this week, but it's noteworthy. And while Jonathan Taylor and company did average a healthy 5.4 yards per carry, it came with a rush DVOA of only -6.4% and -- most importantly for Buffalo -- just one broken tackle.

Baltimore, like Indianapolis, is going to pick up yards on the ground, and plenty of them. It's up to Buffalo to stay disciplined in their defense, to not bite on the counter and other misdirection plays, to stay in the right position, and to make the tackles when they are available. This has been easier said than done for most of the season for Buffalo, but they continue to round into form at the right time, now seventh in defensive DVOA since Week 10. If they can disrupt first downs and knock the Ravens' offense off track, keeping them out of easy down-and-distance situations, Baltimore is going to have a much harder time moving the ball.

Oh, and one other note -- there's a 40% chance of snow during the game. Lamar Jackson has never played in a snow game at any level of football. There's no specific reason to assume Jackson won't be able to adapt to the weather conditions, but it's one more variable the Ravens' offense will have to adjust to in order to have success.


Chart 2

"There is going to be pressure," Baltimore defensive coordinator Don Martindale told the media. "That's who we are. That's what we've done".

We believe him, both in the general and the specific. The Ravens blitzed a league-high 45.1% of the time per Sportradar, and only the Steelers knocked down quarterbacks more frequently. And, even more relevantly, this is exactly what the Baltimore defense did when they played Josh Allen and the Bills back in 2019. That day, the Ravens sent extra rushers at Allen on 31 dropbacks. They came early and often -- they blitzed on Allen's first nine dropbacks, and 11 of his first 12. It worked, too. Allen didn't complete a second pass for positive yards until midway through the second quarter. Allen was sacked six times, lost a fumble, and put up -134 passing DYAR, his worst game of the season. Specifically, Allen is going to have to deal with cornerback blitzes -- he has faced more defensive back blitzes than anyone in the league, and Baltimore sent more secondary blitzes than anyone other than Seattle and Tampa Bay. Expect Chuck Clark and DeShon Elliott to spend a significant chunk of time in the backfield.

There's just one problem: that doesn't work anymore against Allen. Last season, Allen's passing DVOA facing five or more rushers fell to -1.6%, which ranked 21st in the league. In 2020, however, Allen's DVOA against the blitz was 51.3%, second behind only Patrick Mahomes. Among Allen's many improvements in 2020 has been his ability to handle extra pressure in the pocket. His processing this year is faster, allowing him to find his hot read or checkdown options. He seems to have a better understanding of what to look for when forced to scramble -- and his arm strength and newfound accuracy allow him to make throws few other quarterbacks can. The book on Allen still says to bring extra pass-rushers; the Bills faced a blitz 32% of the time. That book should be thrown out.

It's not pressure that gets to Allen, it's confusion. Allen's worst numbers have come against zone coverage and, more to the point, disguised coverages. Indianapolis had some success early in the wild-card matchup by showing blitz, getting Allen off of his initial reads, then dropping back into coverage, and that has been a pattern all season long. Only two of Allen's 10 interceptions have come with defenses rushing five or more, and only one of them has come with Allen actually outside of the pocket. Instead, by forcing Allen into an incorrect pre-snap read, defenses have been able to trick him to throw into zones where defenders lurk. The Ravens should play with their reputation for bringing pressure, line up in creative pressure fronts, and then drop back into coverage more than they typically would. They made the same sort of adjustment against Tennessee in the second half, cutting their blitz percentage in half and stymying Ryan Tannehill's arm. The same tactics might be the best strategy to slow Buffalo's explosive pass attack down. The Ravens had a -6.8% DVOA when rushing only four and still often found ways to get pressure without sending extra players anyway -- it's not like they always needed to blitz to get after the quarterback.

And the Ravens could use extra help in the secondary, because Stefon Diggs is going to give them fits. Diggs caught six of his nine targets against Indianapolis, with an average depth of target of 16.6 yards -- and one of the incomplete passes was a drop. Diggs had a receiving DVOA of 121.7% on his six deep targets against Indy and was nigh-unstoppable in the second half. And even if you take away Diggs, you still have to deal with the trio of Cole Beasley, John Brown, and Gabriel Davis. The Bills combined for the fourth-most receiving DYAR on deep passes in 2020, and they generally were very deep indeed -- only four offenses topped Allen's 27.1 average depth of target when throwing the ball deep (16+ air yards), and none of them threw it deep as regularly as the Bills did. The Ravens did rank fifth against the deep pass, but they struggled some containing A.J. Brown last week, especially when he was matched up one-on-one with Marlon Humphrey. There will be plenty of opportunities for Diggs and company to make splash plays deep in this one.

Do not expect the ground game to be much of a factor. Even when everyone's healthy, few offenses in football throw the ball more frequently than Buffalo does; they led the league by throwing the ball 61% of the time on first downs. And everyone's not healthy -- Zack Moss' high-ankle sprain will keep him out for the rest of the postseason. Without Moss, Buffalo's run DVOA drops from -15.0% to -16.5%, and Moss had a better success rate than Devin Singletary did as well. Plus, you know, Baltimore just held first-team All-Pro Derrick Henry to 2.2 yards per carry and have only allowed three 100-yard rushers all season long; it's not an enticing matchup to run against in normal circumstances. Basically, every time Buffalo decides to run the ball, it's a victory for Baltimore.


This is an area of strength against strength, with both teams finishing in the top four in special teams DVOA this season. Even taking into account his rare miss in the wild-card round, Justin Tucker remains one of the most reliable kickers in NFL history; Tucker and the Ravens ranked fourth in both field goal/XP value and kickoff value in 2020. Baltimore also led the league in kickoff return value behind Devin Duvernay and ranked fifth in punting value to boot.

Not to be outdone, Tyler Bass led the league in kickoff value for Buffalo, while Andre Roberts had the Bills in the top five in both kickoff and punt returns; he led the league with an even 30 yards per kickoff return. Roberts versus Ravens punter Sam Koch is the closest thing to a strength-on-strength matchup you'll get on special teams; two of the best at what they do going at it. If there's a weak link on either team, it's the rookie Bass on field goals. He was only 18-of-24 from 30 yards out or more during the regular season, though he did nail both of his attempts against the Colts.


Our numbers have this the tighter of the two AFC games -- the fourth- and fifth-place teams in DVOA, both of which are arguably playing their best football of the year. Neither team is lucky to be here; it's a clash between two legitimate Super Bowl contenders who might be doing this dance for much of the next decade. Neither team winning would be a surprise.

In the end, the Ravens' offensive strategy revolves around running the ball and staying on pace. Force a negative play early in the drive, and they simply aren't as effective. That's easier said than done, but it is a weakness. Stop Buffalo in first down, and Josh Allen is likely to just throw a 50-yard bomb while running away from three blitzers the next play. It's just hard to pick a run-first offense over a pass-first offense of similar quality in 2021. I expect the Bills to come on top in this one.

Cleveland at Kansas City

DVOA -5.6% (18) 19.5% (6)
WEI DVOA 4.7% (12) 17.7% (7)
Browns on Offense
DVOA 5.4% (9) 4.9% (22)
WEI DVOA 13.8% (6) 8.3% (26)
PASS 20.9% (10) 6.7% (16)
RUSH -0.8% (7) 2.6% (31)
Chiefs on Offense
DVOA 7.4% (25) 23.9% (2)
WEI DVOA 8.2% (25) 22.4% (3)
PASS 16.4% (25) 49.0% (2)
RUSH -5.4% (19) -5.6% (13)
Special Teams
ST DVOA -3.6% (27) 0.5% (17)

All readers can click here for the open in-game discussion thread. If you have FO+, you can click here to see all the matchup of DVOA splits for this game.

After upsetting the Steelers in Pittsburgh Sunday night, the Browns come into Kansas City with a chance to knock off the reigning Super Bowl champions and thoroughly banish several memes from existence. The Chiefs, as we have mentioned all season, have not quite played up to the status you'd expect from a 14-2 team this year. They have been good, and they have beaten many other contenders, but they also won six games over their last seven weeks by a combined 26 points. Their post-bye week point differential is +9.

The Browns have not played the Chiefs since Baker Mayfield's rookie year. Mayfield and Patrick Mahomes, of course, put on one of the finest displays of offensive football that ever occurred when they met in college. In that 2018 game under interim coach Gregg Williams, Mahomes got some payback for his loss in college. The Browns were ravaged by Mahomes to the tune of 375 yards and three scores. Two of those touchdowns went to Travis Kelce, and the other went to current Browns running back Kareem Hunt. The Chiefs crockpotted the final 22 minutes of game time after going up 34-13 in the third quarter.

Cleveland's path to victory this weekend relies on a couple of very evident things. One of them has a pretty fair chance of happening. The other, well, Any Given Sunday is about all we can hit on here.


Chart 3

Well, the Browns are a run-first offense. The Chiefs happen to have one of the worst DVOA run defenses in the NFL, and that's something that has been clear now for three years running!

KC Run Defense DVOAs, 2018-2020
Year Run D
2018 4.5% 32
2019 -0.7% 26
2020 2.6% 31

The Browns have tended to run out of heavy formations often this year. Per Sharp Football Stats, they are the league leaders in using 13 personnel (one back, three tight ends, 124 snaps) and also used heavy doses of 12 personnel (one back, two tight ends, 255 snaps) and 22 personnel (two backs, two tight ends, 89 snaps). The Chiefs have actually dealt well with these bigger packages. They allowed 3.9 yards per carry to 12, 3.4 yards per carry to 22, and 3.3 yards per carry to 13, though those last two are in small sample sizes and the successful run rate was still relatively high. That seems to spit out that though the Chiefs may give up first downs, they're fundamentally sound and don't get out-and-out gashed by big runs in bigger packages. Of course, Nick Chubb and Hunt both have a ton of tackle-breaking ability, which may be able to leave some of these players in a bind. Willie Gay was Kansas City's second-round pick and probably someone they had in mind when it came time to deal with rushing attacks like this, but he is on the injury report with a sprained ankle. Anthony Hitchens and Damien Wilson are the two Kansas City linebackers who have played the most snaps this season.

The Chiefs played three of the five teams with the most rushes in the NFL this year, and the Browns are fourth (they didn't link up with the Titans). Against the Ravens and Patriots, regressive passing games capped the offensive upside, but both teams were able to get plenty of yards. The Saints actually couldn't run on the Chiefs at all, and it helped force a game-script deficit they had to throw to overcome. The goal ends up being something close to what the Texans did to the Chiefs in Week 6 of the 2019 season when they won at Arrowhead: win time of possession by a lot (40 minutes to 20 in that game), hope that Mahomes misses a few key passes, and pray you can just keep dodging bullets while the offense keeps the heat on.

Cleveland's pass offense has taken leaps and bounds forward since their two midseason games with massive winds. Their only game with less than 10.0% pass offense DVOA in that sample (from Week 11 on) was Week 16 against the Jets -- a game where they were effectively using practice squad receivers thanks to COVID-19. The Browns managed 8.0 yards per pass attempt on 73 play-action targets for those first 10 weeks. From Weeks 11 on, it's a scorching 9.5 yards per pass in 65 attempts, good for a total DVOA of 35.0%, and 32 of those plays became first downs or touchdowns.

The Chiefs only allowed 7.0 yards per play-action pass (all play-action data from SIS). That was the 11th-best average in the NFL -- so not great, but not terrible -- but they shut down play-action against the run-heavy teams they played. Obviously Drew Brees' first game off injury had him looking a little shaky, but he didn't complete a play-action pass. Lamar Jackson, Jarret Stidham, and Brian Hoyer combined for 97 play-action yards on 22 attempts.

The other factor, then, is Baker Mayfield's statistical improvement against the blitz in the waning weeks of the season. Mayfield's passing chart from the first Cleveland playoff game isn't telling you a big story, but per Sportradar data he was blitzed on 20 of 34 dropbacks as the Steelers tried to flip the game script. They wound up getting pressure on him only twice.

Image 1

In Mayfield's first six games of the season, he was blitzed 65 times per SIS. When he actually threw the ball, he threw for 7.0 yards per attempt. Since Week 7, Mayfield has averaged 9.8 yards per attempt when blitzed, and has only thrown one interception with a 16.6% DVOA. The Chiefs love the big blitz. Nobody has sent more six-plus-man rushes this year than Kansas City's 87.

Each of these three areas need to work in tandem for Cleveland to have a chance to spring the upset. The play-action game has to continue to be hot against a game opponent, the running game has to work, and Mayfield has to be able to avoid pressure. Kansas City's defense has not played all that great this year, but there are still some big names here, including Tyrann Mathieu, Chris Jones, and Frank Clark.


Chart 4

And then there's these guys. The Chiefs finished first in pass offense DVOA and only had two games below 25.5% pass offense DVOA: Week 7 against Denver and Week 16 against the Falcons. Certain teams such as the Texans and Bills seemed to play back enough to literally force the Chiefs to run on them.

Don't do what Donny Don't does and blitz Patrick Mahomes. Mahomes somehow finished with positive DVOA this year (0.6%) when he was pressured -- that's a spot where the average quarterback is at -70.6% DVOA, and the only other qualifying quarterback that was positive was Ryan Fitzpatrick in a small sample. In his 15 starts, Mahomes had a 72.9% DVOA against 130 blitzes, averaging 9.3 yards per play. The Browns, on the other hand, allowed a 41.5% DVOA when they blitzed, 30th in the NFL. Defensive coordinator Joe Woods can keep a couple of his best in for specialty circumstances, but otherwise, they need to chuck the entire blitz playbook away.

When Woods and Andy Reid/Eric Bieniemy matched up against each other while Woods was in charge of the Broncos, the Chiefs focused pretty heavily on getting linebackers isolated in coverage. This would be a wildly successful idea against a Browns team that never really replaced Joe Schoebert this offseason. B.J. Goodson took a shoulder injury against the Steelers last week and it was the first time all season he didn't play the vast majority of the snaps for the Browns. The depth is former third-rounder Sione Takitaki; former Super Bowler Malcolm Smith has also received 558 snaps following Mack Wilson's season-ending injury. Rookie third-rounder Jacob Phillips saw a ton of snaps as well against Pittsburgh. The general numbers have been pretty fair for those guys per SIS charting -- 5.5 yards per attempt against Smith, 6.5 against Takitaki -- but the Browns were one of the five highest zone-heavy coverage teams in the NFL this year. You don't want these linebackers isolated in man coverage.

Mahomes threw for 9.2 yards per pass against man coverage this year, versus only 7.6 against zone, so that's something that plays into Cleveland's hands. To circle back to the bad DVOA games up above, the Falcons ran zone on 33 of Mahomes dropbacks compared to just 11 in man. The Broncos ran zone on 20 of Mahomes dropbacks compared to … three in man. The major difference-maker is the deep throws. Mahomes threw 46 balls of 20 yards or more against zone this year and only completed 16 of them.

The return of Kevin Johnson and (mainly) Denzel Ward off the COVID-19 list would seem to be a boost as well. Cleveland's pass defense DVOA of 16.4% is only slightly improved to 15.0% if you take out Ward's weeks missed this year, but he's a phenomenal talent and the Browns need all the individual matchup wins they can get in this one. Also, I hate to bring this up, but the Browns have allowed 58.8% DVOA on deep throws this year, 29th in the NFL. So at the same time as they play zone, they need to make sure the pressure gets there quickly enough to not let Mahomes find Tyreek Hill or one of the other Swiss Army knife special teamer/wideout fast guys such as Demarcus Robinson wide open.

And that pretty much is the undercard of the Mahomes magic and something that could mess with the entire tenor of this matchup. The Chiefs are sixth in pass block win rate at 62.6% though former Browns tackle Mitchell Schwartz's return from IR is apparently not happening this week. That might help. The Browns have the third-highest pass rush win rate edge rusher in the NFL: Myles Garrett. Garrett was an Aaron Schatz All-Pro; he finished with more "quality" sacks than any player in the NFL per charting by Brandon Thorn of Establish The Run.

Well, good luck Myles. It's going to be on you to create the pressure on Sunday. Olivier Vernon is on IR with an Achilles injury. Sheldon Richardson can still get a little push but he's 30. The Browns used Porter Gustin as their change-up EDGE last week, with Adrian Clayborn as the main fill-in. As much respect as I have for Clayborn as a player, a dominant edge rusher at this stage of his career he is not. You're hoping to maybe find a little juice from Larry Ogunjobi or Jordan Elliott as well -- the Browns have to do this without blitzing somehow. This is one of the many conundrums Mahomes inflicts.

With Ben Roethlisberger literally just dropping 501 total passing yards on this defense -- even as it did have a huge lead and he did make mistakes -- trying to port the idea of that defense playing up to Mahomes standards is terrifying. Better get some turnovers, Cleveland.

Oh, the Chiefs have a run game as well. After putting up double-digit negative DVOA in each of their first four games, they were positive in eight of the last 12 and hit double-digit positive DVOA in four of their seven games since the bye week. The Browns don't have much of a split as a run defense. The only game they've carried worse than a 13.0% rush DVOA was against the Steelers in Week 6 -- one of those games where DVOA looks at what Pittsburgh did as a whole this season and adjustments look at the Browns skeptically. This will mostly be a change-up for the Chiefs. They know what their bread and butter is. The Browns could play the Chiefs like those Bills and Texans did and invite more runs -- they were extra special with their game plan in Week 1 to force the Ravens to pass on them rather than run on them -- but otherwise this is the thematic part of the storyline you won't really think about as Mahomes drops back and lets it rip. 


Kansas City finished 17th in special teams DVOA. Do you know how far back we have to go to find another Chiefs team out of the top 10 in special teams DVOA? Try 2012, before Reid and special teams coach Dave Toub were employed by the organization. The Chiefs were bad on kick coverage (remember the touchdown they allowed to Baltimore's Devin Duvernay on Monday Night Football?) and, shockingly, on punt returns. Mecole Hardman had one return for a touchdown this year, and Robinson flubbed a ball that led to a safety against the Saints. Outside of those major plays, the Chiefs struggled to get anything going, with Hardman's long non-scoring return capped at just 16 yards.

The Browns, though, have been a net negative in literally every area of special teams this year. They barely cleared an average special teams DVOA last year with the second-best rating we handed out on kickoffs. This year they've been bad on kickoffs! One of the four worst units in the league, in fact. They allowed a kickoff return touchdown to Indy's Isaiah Rodgers in Week 5, and have allowed five other 30-plus-yard returns, though four of them came in the first two weeks of the season. With Cody Parkey at kicker, the Browns have essentially given up on long field goals. Parkey is 10-of-11 from 40-plus, but hasn't attempted a 50-plus-yarder all season. His season long is just 46 yards. Good thing the Browns don't mind going for it on fourth down anyway!


This is the biggest spread of any of the week's games, with the Chiefs getting 10 points. As much as we've disparaged the Chiefs, they're a pretty easy pick to win this game on paper. A lot has to go right for the Browns to come out of this with a victory, though our model does favor the Browns covering the 10 points.

There has been a lot of talk around the general enlightened football-sphere about how the Chiefs have mailed in certain parts of this season, using Mahomes out wide on some plays, not going for the jugular quite as quickly as you'd expect, and so on. The Browns are going to be a measuring stick for just how seriously the Chiefs are taking this. Since 2012, no team has made the Super Bowl without the benefit of a first-round bye. That obviously is a much shallower pool this year than usual, but it is something that merits watching as the Chiefs continue to be DVOA underachievers despite passing the media's juggernaut/easy favorite eye test.


DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average) breaks down each play of the season and compares it to the NFL average based on situation and opponent. You'll find it explained further here. Since DVOA measures ability to score, a negative DVOA indicates a better defense and worse offense, and a positive DVOA indicates a better offense and worse defense.

Team DVOA numbers incorporate all plays; since passing is generally more efficient than rushing, the average for passing is actually above 0% while the average for rushing is below 0%.

SPECIAL TEAMS numbers are different; they represent value in points of extra field position gained compared to NFL average. Field goal rating represents points scored compared to average kicker at same distances. All special teams numbers are adjusted by weather and altitude; the total is then translated into DVOA so it can be compared to offense and defense. Those numbers are explained here.

Each team is listed with DVOA for offense and defense, total along with rush and pass, and rank among the 32 teams in parentheses. (If the DVOA values are difficult to understand, it is easy to just look at the ranks.) We also list WEIGHTED DVOA (WEI DVOA), which is based on a formula which drops the value of games early in the season to get a better idea of how teams are playing now (explained here).

Each team also gets a chart showing their performance this year, game-by-game, according to total DVOA. In addition to a line showing each game, another line shows the team's trend for the season, using a rolling average of the last five games. Note that even though the chart appears in the section for when each team has the ball, it represents total performance, not just offense.



88 comments, Last at 18 Jan 2021, 3:55am

1 Cowardice on Display?

"From the -- let's be polite and call them "traditionalist" -- segment of draft analysis, Lamar Jackson received criticism that his athletic style of play wasn't fit to play quarterback in the NFL."

Not quite sure what the impolite term is? Are these cowards implying racism? In a league that embraced Mike Vick?

Lets face Jackson doesn't have a particularly good throwing motion. But neither did Tim Tebow .. oops bad example .. neither does Phil Rivers.

He did have an incredibly low Wonderlic but Nathan Peterman scored higher than Pat Mahomes who was just average so not sure if that means anything at all.

I sure would like it if McCown and Knowles would just say what they are implying instead of being snarky with 20-20 hindsight. I don't know how they evaluated Jackson coming out of college .. show me the receipts if you liked him then.

4 Leaving aside the racial…

Leaving aside the racial tints, there is a sense that if a qb is prone to running, he won't be inclined to learn the mental aspects of qb play or rely on throwing accuracy.

Btw, there is a clear difference between that line of thinking being wrong vs Lamar just happened to be really good and its not clear to me which it is.

Joe Webb played in a playoff game and despite being an athlete and running well, the guy was horrible for 4 quarters of football. I feel like there's a bigger danger Lamar turns into that player than Lamar becoming who he is now. In fact, I thought his rookie season resembled a lot more Tebow than Lamar the sophomore. Again, I credit Lamar - like Allen - for really growing as a Qb.

16 I thought there was about…

I thought there was about zero chance based on his college career he would turn into Tebow.

Tebow ran more than Jackson did and played in a systems were his passing success was about his elite teammates. There were pros all up and down that roster. Jackson passed more than Tebow did, and he played on a team which was pretty much Jackson making things happen.

11 it's a data point

The NFL is a league of teams that need to strive for excellence not diversity. A good team cannot afford to be racist.

14 One of the possible billion

In reply to by Run dmc

The NFLs worst teams still turn a profit. They DEFINITELY dont strive for "excellence." How many good teams are there?

Whatever. If you truly think that just because Vick was "embraced" that there arent anymore problems...that's on you for watching Meyers more recent problems not holding him back, despite never coaching in the NFL too, but people bringing up Bieniemys from 2 decades ago. That's on you.

17 As expected

I give a literal example and it's not evidence. Just to let yall know, you dont have to say "I hate minorities" to think something is racial biased. 

Does that mean everyone is? No. But when a majority owners and upper management are white, it shouldn't be surprising that racial bias is a thing. Especially in this country, why would the NFL be immune when it's the same old people replacing themselves with their friends and family?

19 Racism implies deliberately…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Racism implies deliberately choosing certain candidates because they are white instead of being black. That's not the same thing as nepotism. I grant you, there is a lot of nepotism in the NFL, but minority candidates also get hired in this league. 

Btw, when you say the majority are white therefore racism is expected...that's the zeitgeist at work but that doesn't make it true.

One could look at the statistics of the NFL body and assume there's an explicit racism against Asians and Hispanics and certainly against women especially.  

23 No

Dude. You cant just brush off the racial bias in the way Lamar and EB are treated because you wanna play semantics. Those are experiences, intentional or not. And again, just because there a few people that are hired doesn't mean everything is ok.

It shouldn't come as a surprise white people can be racist. In 2021. I really shouldn't have to explain how it's still a thing. And again, the NFL doesn't have shield around it protecting itself from the ills of the rest of the world, in particularly this country. Please be aware that this treatment isnt always sound or in the best interest of "excellence."

27 I have asked you to provide…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I have asked you to provide some documented evidence that the league is racist. 

Your reply seems to be...thats like asking me to provide evidence that water is wet. I dont doubt there are racists out there, but I am asking how we know that the people who run franchises are making decisions with racism either explicitly or implicitly embedded in their thought process?

Or are we generalizing that any business with white people in it is racist? Are most white people racist? That's a pretty remarkable comment. Didn't we have a black president?

28 I have asked you to provide…

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

I have asked you to provide some documented evidence that the league is racist. 

Your reply seems to be...thats like asking me to provide evidence that water is wet. I dont doubt there are racists out there, but I am asking how we know that the people who run franchises are making decisions with racism either explicitly or implicitly embedded in their thought process?

Or are we generalizing that any business with white people in it is racist? Are most white people racist? That's a pretty remarkable comment. Didn't we have a black president?

30 There was evidence already.

You chose to brush it aside (Lamar) and ignore it (Meyers more recent problems being less important than Bieniemys).

And like I said before, you, as a white person, reject all evidence unless it's someone shouting "I hate minorities" as they kill them. I can't get through to you when you think like that. You pulling the "we had a black president" just shows you're not getting it.  

Do you know what redlining is?

34 Two decisions are enough to…

Two decisions are enough to suggest its racism for sure? Imagine if we held such lofty standards in our other fields of research.

"And like I said before, you, as a white person..."

How do you know I am white? Incidentally, why does it matter what my skin color is versus the content of my argument? 


45 You think that's it??

Oh boy. NEVER enough evidence. But Vick being "embraced" is???

You are white. The fact that you can't be up front with it shows that you haven't been through any similar experiences. Because through the eyes of many other minorities that have

Meyer vs Bieniemy similarities

  • Offensive background
  • Up for 2021 HC gig
  • Past "problems"

Meyer vs Bieniemy differences

  • 0 experience in the NFL vs decades
  • Problems 2 years ago vs 2 decades
  • White vs Black

Which one got a HC job first in the NFL?

Plausible deniability has run its course with minorities that have followed the NFL. You may not see it because you have never experienced it and wait for a VERY specific phrase such as "I hate minorities." 

Also I assume you haven't heard of redlining since you dodged that question. 

Let me put this frankly: through the much broader and obvious nepotism and cronyism, passive racism is enabled over and over in the NFL. Minorities are held to a much higher standard (a la Haskins, but not Daniel Synder, well look at that another example that has to be brought up, but is only the tip of the iceberg)

47 "You are white. The fact…

"You are white. The fact that you can't be up front with it shows that you haven't been through any similar experiences"

I have written guest articles for this site. If you find them, you'll see the name and decide for yourself what my ethnicity is. 

48 Yet you cant be forthcoming about it

And completely ignore the rest of the post to do as such. Making it the main counterpoint despite not actually addressing the argument at hand. Even though you think it has nothing to do with anything, therefore it doesn't matter and should be dropped as such. 

Racism is in the NFL, just like the country it resides in. White players/coaches are afforded more opportunities than their counterparts. I'm calling them like I see them. And so will others. Just like you're seeing (example #4 now if you're keeping track, is that enough? It's more than "just 2") the draft complex shove Zach Wilson ahead of Justin Fields despite a bigger and better resume from Fields. 

49 I don't think there's…

I don't think there's anything I can say to change your world view. And even if I could, its not going to happen in the forums. 

Also, there is a way to have polite discourse with people without assuming they have some hidden agenda because of some race you think they are(which happens to be wrong). 

As an aside, talking with you reminded me of an interview with Glenn Loury about this very topic. He paused, took a breath, and answer with, "To answer this question seriously, it should hold up in some rigorous analysis". 

71 You're hiding behind a thin veil

Just to avoid the topic at hand. You dont think rigorous analysis has been done before? Sorry for not being "polite" enough about a topic in which you deny racism and focus more on your own race. If you wanna live in your own little world where everything is justified, I'm letting you know that's not reality. 

74 I am going to break my own…

I am going to break my own rule and reply.

First, when I asked you for evidence, if you had posted the link(and to the academic article, not the cnn editorial), that would have avoided a lot of this unnecessary back and forth, especially the unneeded snark. I read the paper and have some thoughts. Its definitely interesting and they have a point.

Second - even if you happen to be right, saying "you are white, therefore your opinion is irrelevant" is really just arguing in bad faith. Its especially pathetic when the person you are accusing of being white is not white.

Third - seriously, comport yourself better. There are people who disagree with me and can still be polite. That's called civil discourse. 

75 You're old enough to know how to click

You keep honing in on your supposed non whiteness as if that should be big deal even though you say yourself it shouldn't. You're attacking that because you can't argue the actual point on hand. It isn't shouldn't matter. But it does for those in the NFL. They are NOT immune to ill of this countrys past just because they "embraced" Vick. That doesn't get them a pass for eternity. 

Now you've honed in on the semantics of "civil discourse." I won't apologize for your ignorance on such a topic when it's brought up and numerous examples are brought and you brush them aside as if they don't play a real effect and label it simply as "interesting" and move on with it (and then turn around and bring up things like EBs past when tons of people say they're shocked he didn't get hired but ignore UM or Matt Patricia because they...interview well?). 3 years of great offenses yet no offers (and insiders tell us when a guy gets an offer so the, "we don't know who they offer it to" excuse doesn't fly) and you dont think race plays apart when failed HCs like Gase get jobs in the same cycle, along with questionable hires like Judge, not to mention all the other mostly white guys? If you don't see how that's suspect, you, like many white people, rely on plausible deniability too much. 

So please get back on topic and stop trying to change the subject because these things are still real for many. You don't need to be in the interview room to call sus things out. Otherwise you start giving passes to Dan Synder. 

79 Absolutely.

There are systems in place that give favorably to one group over others (and even those that are hurt by it are influenced by it to think a certain way). Unfortunately, I repeat, the NFL is not immune to this. Unfortunately I see it with Lamar and EB. Others may not since they haven't been through anything similar and I understand that. All I ask is for others to be open and to consider the side that does see it. 

55 Wilson ahead of Fields

In which world has this occurred? I read a rumor that Fields might go #1 overall to JAX instead of Lawrence b/c they hired Meyer. I don't see any scenario where Fields and Lawrence don't go #1 & #2 in some order, absent a major injury, arrest, etc. MIA would get a king's ransom for #3 if either is available.

[I don't watch Ohio St. often--I don't watch a lot of CFB. But after seeing him play against Clemson on Jan 1, I can see why he's been so hyped. He played great, and hopefully he will be a success in the NFL.]

72 "I don't watch a lot of CFB"

There it is. And since you dont watch you don't follow as closely. There are plenty of circles where Wilson has overtaken Fields ie PFF (who also had Trubisky #1 in 2017, example #5). 

77 Bad faith arguments.

Scouts overrating Trubisky is not racism, that's just idiotic. Almost all your arguments have been made in bad faith. The Jax owner isn't white either, so accusing him of racism for hiring a super-popular in Florida, and successful coach at two huge schools is also beyond ridiculous. Dan Snyder being a terrible person isn't evidence of racism either, we all know people of every color who shouldn't be in charge of a lemonade stand. 

Lamar's questions as a NFL QB prospect are still the same questions that exist today about his ability to win a playoff game with his ARM. In his last 4 playoff games, he's thrown a total of ONE non-garbage time TD, 5 INTs, including the game-losing one last night, and many fumbles. You can't win a SB with a running QB no matter what color they are, the Bills would have zero shot if Allen hadn't developed into a much passer than Lamar. Elway couldn't win when he was a better runner than passer. Vick couldn't win and he had the same cannon arm as Elway. Same for Cunningham. Same for Tebow.

Guess who wins the trophy? Great passing QBs: Rodgers, Brees, Brady, Mahomes, Manning, Flacco was on fire for his run, Montana, Manning.

The Eagles may be willing to hire Bieniemy today but he's not available for interviews for obvious reasons. The Eagles had a black HC going back to the mid-90s, and at least 4 starting black QBs going back to 1985. Maybe firing Ray Rhodes for Andy Reid was racism too?

At least you didn't call FO racists for not spelling Leslie Frazier's name right after he's been in the NFL for decades. 

78 It isn't?

Even though it was clear Watson was better? We're definitely not being objective here. Everything is bad faith because Khan can't be affected by stereotypes either. Minorities running bad lemonade stands therefore shouldn't run lemonade stands, therefore Synder also stays? Bad faith? I guess it was a coincidence the last two "weak" QB classes ('17 and '19) had the top QBs be black (Watson, Mahomes and Murray, Haskins). Coincidence.

Lamar has shown plenty with his arm. Only he is the one getting scrutinized, before last week, for not winning a playoff game, not Allen or Baker. Now he has to win a SB and Allen and Baker are just expected to lose so that's alright. No one cares when they were making mistake (hmmm but they held onto him and let him grow even though they were in position to take another shot at a QB). 

The Eagles want to interview EB. That's it. And why wouldn't they? He's interviewed at almost all the openings. But since they had Rhodes decades ago they can never do any more wrong? Good thing they took a shot on a QB coach (that didn't call plays BTW, another con used against EB). Meanwhile being an OC for 3 great offenses in 3 years warrants more scrutiny (and the Eagles were scrutinized at the time)? 

The fact yall continue to make excuses instead of listening to valid complaints just goes to show nothing will ever be sus to you. How long does EB have to wait for you to even start wondering if something is up? Or is there always going to be a reason to hire the Adam Gases over him? Tell me, when you do start thinking "hey that doesn't seem right" or are you guys always going to give them the benefit of the doubt despite mounting evidence. 


54 Meyer vs. Bieniemy

Did you ever stop to think that the reason Meyer was hired first is because BIENIEMY CAN'T BE HIRED YET, BECAUSE HIS TEAM IS STILL IN THE PLAYOFFS?? This happens every year!

Meyer has been a successful HC, and has been mentioned as a potential NFL HC for years. Bieniemy has been a successful OC for a couple of years, and has been mentioned as a potential HC since last offseason. [I'm sure he wishes he could have been interviewing instead of getting that ring last year. I'm sure he feels discriminated against because of it. /s] Both guys will get their shot, and it wouldn't surprise me if Bieniemy has a handshake agreement with some club (Chargers? Lions?). Either way, we will be able to judge both men on their merits. 

Regarding Haskins versus Snyder, it appears that Haskins was a colossal failure, and didn't take his job seriously. That will get you fired no matter your race. Snyder is the owner, and many people at FO have implied that he should be ousted. Overt racism did get an owner fired in the NBA several years ago. I don't know if Snyder is racist, but he seems to be bad at relating to his employees. I seem to remember intimations of good people refusing to work for him because of these things. The fact that he can't be fired for being a bad owner seems to be lost on your "racism must exist" worldview.

If you keep posting nonsense, I hope they block you. 

73 Lol ok Joseph

You know teams can wait to hire someone right? Working real well for SF.

Meyer has *never* coached in the NFL. Bieniemy has been a successful OC for 3* years of 3. He WAS interviewing last year (and the year before despite getting bounced a couple weeks earlier, yet still no job, weird, maybe it doesn't have anything to do with timing). But we're already judging them on their merits. One's past is brought more frequently despite not being the reason for going into retirement two years ago.

Unless it's literal voice recordings of racist remarks, yall don't believe anything can be racist. That's the problem. And despite Synder being under fire, he's yet to be forced out by the other owners. I wonder why...people like him are usually held to a high standard.

Only nonsense is not seeing how suspect the league is and getting FACTS wrong but spouting off them as if they're new information, that coincidentally, happens to hold the black coach back. Weird. 


59 Bienemie

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

Can you be more specific in showing racial bias towards EB.

Here is a very plausible explanation for why he hasn't landed a head coaching job:

Just being the coordinator for a strong side of the ball hasn't been a strong predictor of success. Every coach in the league would look great coaching the KC Offense.

Additionally, the HC's area of expertise is the Offensive side of the ball and is viewed as an Offensive mastermind. It is very reasonable for teams to assign EB a near 0 amount of the credit for the KC success.

29 I feel like I can never have…

I feel like I can never have a serious conversation about this because any time I want to try and be nuanced with racism, I get labeled a certain way. 

But here goes...

To me, true racism is exhibited in a eugenics/Nazi sort of way where you believe your race is superior because of bloodlines like thoroughbreds while another race is inferior. I think there are very few people who believe in this anymore but who knows, I am just guessing.

I think literal or deliberate decisions to choose one race over another with "everything held constant" is to me actually a manifestation of xenophobia. 

Let me give an example. I have a friend who is half asian and has a preference for asian women. He dated only asian women and married an asian woman. He runs a small business and the last three people he hired all went to UCLA, "coincidentally" the school he went to.

I pushed him to answer...are his actions racist? He didn't even consider a white woman or a black woman. You could argue UCLA produces the best employees ever, but he also admitted two of them were mistakes in hindsight. I pressed him to consider...did he not choose them in part because they went to UCLA?

Coming back to xenophobia, I think there is a lack of information so people defer to what they are familiar with and naturally suspicious of people they don't know. He preferred asians, I suspect, because he grew up around asians and knew their culture and would be comfortable with him. He chose UCLA because they are likely to be candidates just like him. 

If you think hiring someone who is white over black is racist, then I think what he's doing is racist too. And here's why I say, its a nuanced topic. 

33 I'm not quite sure how this…

I'm not quite sure how this is a reply to my point that racism doesn't have to be deliberate, but I will try my best to answer.

For one, I think if you limit your definition of "true racism" to "eugenics/Nazis", then you shouldn't be surprised when no one will have a serious or nuanced conversation with you.  If I said "true good quarterback play is exhibited in a 2004 Peyton Manning / 2007 Tom Brady season" in response to comments suggesting Matt Stafford or Dak Prescott are good QBs, would you engage me in any more depth?  Keep in mind, no one is suggesting the systemic racism present in NFL hiring decisions is anywhere close to the atrocities committed by Nazis, or the KKK, or other similar organizations.  But that doesn't mean it's not racist to a lesser degree.

As for the rest of your post, I think it's important to realize - as you highlight in your friend's choice of wife - that everyone is "a little bit racist", so to speak.  Or, at least, everyone has biases and tends to prefer people who are like them.  Because your personal life is all about preferences, while your professional life is about you being able to make a living, that means it's super important to distinguish between the people one gets involved with romantically or socially and the people one hires or considers for professional association.  (While it can often improve your own worldview if you have friends from different backgrounds, very few people seriously argue you should be compelled to have a diverse social circle like you should when you're hiring.)

It's because everyone has preferences for those like themselves that it takes effort to not be racist.  This doesn't have to be things like hiring quotas or the Rooney Rule, especially for those of us who aren't in positions of significant power, but it does require us to at least check ourselves before we pass judgement of people in a professional setting.  Did I discount that person's intelligence because their accent or dialect was different than mine?  Did I assume they would be less committed to the job because they are a mother?  We should constantly reflect on our own actions to try to overcome our unconscious biases.

I think it's also a problem that you equated "hiring fellow UCLA grads" and racism.  Being a UCLA grad is a choice one makes, whereas you have no control over your own race.  (And for the record, it's almost certainly a very poor business decision to limit yourself to one university, but that's not really relevant to this discussion.)

You're right that the most effective discussions of racism - and other -isms - are nuanced.  But the first step needs to be considering how non-deliberate actions can also reflect the inherent bias and racism in people and organizations.  Granting you that "racist" is an adjective thrown around more often than it need be, the proper reaction to being called racist is not to get defensive against the label, but to do an honest assessment of your own actions.  (Related, the term "privileged" is not an insult, it's just a descriptor.  A white male like myself is privileged, but that doesn't make me a bad person.  It just means that I've had certain advantages that other groups haven't.  And it's not necessarily bad to take advantage of one's privilege - just don't deny that it exists when you have a chance to make things better for a disadvantaged group.)

36 Granting you that "racist"…

Granting you that "racist" is an adjective thrown around more often than it need be, the proper reaction to being called racist is not to get defensive against the label, but to do an honest assessment of your own actions.  (Related, the term "privileged" is not an insult, it's just a descriptor.


Substitute any pejorative into that sentence in place of "racist" and see if it still scans correctly for you.


38 Literally any?  Maybe not. …

Literally any?  Maybe not.  But plenty do.  A huge problem with society is that people don't reflect on these things.

If someone called me "stupid" I don't have to simply take their word for it, but you can bet I'd wonder what I said or did that prompted it.  Same for "smelly", "ugly", "mean", "rude", and, yes, "racist".

Self-reflection is a good thing.

37 The reason I defined racism…

The reason I defined racism as I did was not intended as some absurd goal post moving. In point of fact, slavery was justified along those definitions I listed above. Quite a lot of people before the Nazis held the eugenic view very seriously. It was held by Presidents of this country. I use it now to show we have grown quite a bit since then. I think its a tiny minority who still believes certain groups are best kept in chains while only their race is enlightened enough to rule the rest of us. 

I agree with your point, we have ingrained biases that we need to constantly be reminded of. I just think its a much healthier conversation to say, "we are all humans who fall prey to these kinds of biases and it has real consequences" rather than to castigate one group of individuals as deliberately motivated to keep others down. That is a world view that's commonly held but wrong imo.

Just some other random economic tidbits. One of the greatest causes of inequality are marriage inequality. My friend by marrying another asian from, "hello, UCLA" deprived a woman who might have been less educated and less well off but whom he might have ultimately been happier with. He never gave her a chance.

Anyways, let's take your example further. Suppose a person comes in dressed less professionally than another candidate. Should that weigh into your decisions? What about how he or she combs their hair. Or if they are obese. Or if they are attractive? We rely on a lot of these verbal and visual cues because the world is uncertain. And unfortunately, that extends to races and ethnicities we don't know or have very poor opinions of. 

What is the appropriate way we should do things because I think its very hard to overcome these ingrained views we have. 


39   "Anyways, let's take your…


"Anyways, let's take your example further. Suppose a person comes in dressed less professionally than another candidate. Should that weigh into your decisions? What about how he or she comes their hair. Or if they are obese. Or if they are attractive? We rely on a lot of these verbal and visual cues because the world is uncertain. And unfortunately, that extends to races and ethnicities we don't know or have very poor opinions of. 

What is the appropriate way we should do things because I think its very hard to overcome these ingrained views we have. "

These are all really good questions, and actually are quite relevant.

If someone dresses less professionally, first you should break that down.  Did they show up in a threadbare t-shirt to a job interview?  Or did they wear a shirt and tie, but it just looked "cheap"?  For this job, will they need to be making really good first impressions, e.g. face-to-face sales or as a performer of sorts?  Or will it just be a standard office job?  The same is true of your other examples: they should only impact your judgement if they are relevant to the job or whatever you need that person to do.

As for your last question, step one is acknowledging that you have biases like this, and keeping a open mind about it.  It sounds like you do have an open mind about your own actions, so I don't quite understand why you're so quick to dismiss racism in areas that you aren't even involved.

40 "so I don't quite understand…

"so I don't quite understand why you're so quick to dismiss racism in areas that you aren't even involved."

Maybe this is a flaw in my thinking, but racism at least how its being used, is an incendiary charge on one's personal character whereas all of this I see as deeply human issues. There's also a ton of virtue signaling and even the term racism appears to be a singularly white person's burden - as you can read from one of the replies above. The implication being, if you happen to be from a disadvantaged race or ethnicity, you cannot be "racist". 

Also, the characteristics I mentioned above seem relevant even for jobs that it doesn't relate to. Attractiveness pays in every profession, not just Hollywood actors and actresses. No judgement implied, but lots of studies have shown that obese women suffer a tremendous wage penalty and not just for track runners. 

I have interviewed people for tech roles. One person stammered through the interview, clearly nervous. Another handled it just fine. i recommended not to hire the former and gave the thumbs on the latter. Both got hired and the stammerer ended up being a terrific hire and a big help to me. Is there a bias there? Maybe but I perceived things through cues because I didn't know. Now I have learned that the interview process is flawed and we need a better way, but those decisions aren't mine to make. 


All that to say - I think we can make a lot more headway if we start with the fact that people are people and we should be having inclusive rhetoric rather than demonizing people as "racist" or evil or any of the above. 

41 I agree with your point, we…

I agree with your point, we have ingrained biases that we need to constantly be reminded of. I just think its a much healthier conversation to say, "we are all humans who fall prey to these kinds of biases and it has real consequences" rather than to castigate one group of individuals as deliberately motivated to keep others down. That is a world view that's commonly held but wrong imo.

Just some other random economic tidbits. One of the greatest causes of inequality are marriage inequality. My friend by marrying another asian from, "hello, UCLA" deprived a woman who might have been less educated and less well off but whom he might have ultimately been happier with. He never gave her a chance.

Sorry to split this into a second reply.  You're right that too often "racist" is used as a permanent descriptor for people, when often they are not intending to hold down a different group.  I actually think it's more important to look at situations like the NFL or other organizations and look at ways in which the group behaves in a racist way and figure out ways to correct that.  (That said, I think you do underestimate how many people truly believe in their own race's supremacy, but I don't think that's something we should get into here.)

I'm curious to understand more of what you mean with the marriage-driven inequality, though I'm not sure how much more we should hijack the AFC Divisional Round Preview article, heh.

43 "I'm curious to understand…

"I'm curious to understand more of what you mean with the marriage-driven inequality, though I'm not sure how much more we should hijack the AFC Divisional Round Preview article, heh."

You are right, this will be my last post on this. People marry on a variety of factors, but race and education are big predictors. This is purely an economic observation, but some races are less educated and less wealth off than other races. I am not going to get into why, but that's just the reality. And if you are marrying among the same race/ethnicity/education, by in large, you are going to get more pronounced inequality among the races. 

As an aside, I have friends who have interracial marriages. But I have no friends who married someone who didn't go to college / didn't have some high degree. I find that quite interesting. 

58 I'm glad we can have a…

I'm glad we can have a polite discourse. I think through this natural discourse we can realize we agree much more than we thought we did.

I'll be honest I come to this site mostly because a lot of the posters are circumspect like you. I tried posting a few Reddit posts on random NFL topics and I got a barrage of ugly responses. Finding circumspect people who can also be fans is fun to be honest. I like a person who argues with every bone of their body that Aaron Rodgers is the greatest quarterback of all time while also being aware of the perils of that statement. 

53 Nuance that I perceive

"Racism does not require deliberate or even conscious preference." IMO, this is the most common bias/prejudice--it is made at the subconscious level. HOWEVER, those who yell the loudest imply and/or blatantly allege that it is--and that destroys everything else they say that is actually true. As mentioned, when everything is equal, we tend to choose what we know the best, is most like us, etc. However, numerous studies have proved that in a business setting, differences of race, background, and life experiences usually are better for those differences (diversity).

The problem is, in the setting of a football team, too many differences can fracture the unity necessary to attain the goals all want to reach (a championship). If the OC wants to use a power running-play action-type offense (like TEN/MIN/CLE), and the HC wants to throw the ball a lot (like KC/past NO), but the GM has given the team a bad O-line because he spent money on the defense--well, you've got diversity of ideas! But you also end up playing like the Jets because of those diverse ideas.

I don't work in the NFL, but I am sure that is part of the interview process. Someone, or a small group, sets out what type of team they want to have, and then everyone else has to get on board with that. So, either people with different ideas have to submit to the plans of someone else, or they choose to leave/are forced to leave because they don't. Unlike in the business world, they can't just go start their own team and create a company that is better than the one they left--there are a fixed number of those companies and those jobs. There are always more candidates than openings.

Note that I am not saying that racial diversity=diverse ideas that can cost a guy a job or potential job. The guy with the best ideas may bomb his interview, and both sides lose out on a good job fit. Lets be honest--in every field, the person who is best for the job may not be the most impressive during the interview process. Their words may not match their actions. They may alienate their fellow employees, but can impress the boss. 

At the end of the day, conscious or unconscious racism may have nothing to do with it. The reasons are more than likely much more varied.

52 At the risk of violating the 1st rule of FO comments

In reply to by ImNewAroundThe…

1. The absence of something does not make the opposite true--i.e., lack of minorities in upper management does not mean that racism is at work. To my knowledge, there are no American Indian nor Asians, no females, and almost no Hispanic/Latinos on NFL rosters. Does that mean coaches are racist? (No)

2. To even allege racism, one needs to examine, at the least: the racial composition of the entire US population, and compare that to the composition of the group we are examining; the number of potential QUALIFIED applicants for the job opening; the number of ACTUAL applicants for the position; and somewhat unknown, the qualifications of the actual applicants. Re: NFL openings, we will never know how someone interviewed, or other qualifications that the interviewer is looking for.

3. The "pipeline" of how people with little experience get hired and then gain experience is a big factor, and one that the NFL seems to be focusing on recently. Upper management, as well as HC's and coordinators, tend to be people that have attained a certain level of experience in their field. You can't get experience until you get hired.

4. About the pipeline: anecdotally, the best coaches tend to be athletes that had some success in HS and college, with very little professional experience. In my opinion, that is because they did not have the talent and abilities (think speed, height, and size) to be a successful pro. Since they weren't the fastest/biggest/strongest, they had to rely on smarts to get by at an earlier level. As they got older and faced higher level competition, their relative lack of talent became apparent. But because they loved the game, it became easier to take an internship/low level coaching opportunity (like back at their old HS/college) and begin to work their way up. As we know that the racial makeup of professional football players are extremely African-American compared to the general population, this implies that those who don't make the pros are much likelier to be Caucasian. Those who play HS but not college are even less likely to be AA, and whites are probably over-represented (compared to the general population). [There are probably a reasonable proportion of Hispanics in this HS group, with some Asians/American Indians as well.]

5. Thus, IMO, the pipeline of potential coaches is probably even more white than the general population at the expense of other groups, while the athletes are much more African-American at the expense of other groups. This sets up a greater perceptions of racism--because the contrast is magnified by the types that make up each group. Then, you reinforce the stereotype of "black=athlete; white=smart" because coaches tend to be failed players. 

6. The issue is also an economic one: players earn more than coaches, although their playing career is shorter than a potential coaching career. If you can play in the NFL, the potential for salary and endorsements is at a different level, especially compared to entry level coaching. The downtime is longer, the workday is shorter. No one would voluntarily skip out on playing (if their body can handle it) to go into coaching--these guys aren't wired that way. 

To conclude this essay, the easiest way to make the upper management of the NFL and its teams more racially diverse is to convince AA's who wash out of the professional ranks early to go into coaching RIGHT AWAY. If you don't get drafted, even if an NFL team signs you as an UDFA, start learning about coaching. Most likely, you won't make the roster, and you may not make the practice squad. So start exploring opportunities to teach other players how to succeed. Volunteer to help coach at your HS--see if the HC will let you work with the guys that play your position. Go to your college coach--see if you can do something for your team. The guys who were a year or two behind you at college still probably look up to you--if you can teach them a technique to help them, they will listen. It doesn't mean you ignore opportunities to try out, or stop working out to reach your dream of making it in the NFL. It means that you start exploring plan B when plan A isn't going well. If you only end up making it for a year or two, you have already starting building a plan B. IMO, too many players who wash out never try to be a coach--when they are probably the best candidate to do it.

87 Kaepernick

I don't think the Kaep situation says the league is racist, but it suggests it and indicates that avoiding controversy/protests/Trump-like ire is more important than winning.

A lot of folks could make a reasonable argument that that's racist.  I'm not sure it is.  I wished last year that Indy had signed him. They went with a black QB instead of him, so it's not direct/overt racism, just his politics they wanted to avoid (and knowing Irsay by rep, that was a little surprising).  And Kaep's politics are steeped in the fight for racial equality, which brings us most of the way back to racism.

And only after Kaep was essentially blackballed for 2-3 years did last summer's protests and events lead the league to say "hey, we were wrong."  I think those were Goodell's words.  By their own admission then, they were at the very least on the side of racism.  (hat tip to Benjamin Disraeli--who was wrong 150 years ago as well)  Put another way, if you see something racist happening and choose to ignore it (when you have the power to do something about it) does that make you racist?  Hmmm, probably.  Just my opinion.

65 OK, missed all of this. By …

OK, missed all of this.

By "traditionalist", I meant the school of thought that says that mobile quarterbacks won't last long in the NFL; the ones stuck in the past, that think if a quarterback doesn't play like Johnny Unitas, they can't play in the NFL.

And if you want my receipts for liking him in the past, Andrew Potter and I mocked the conversation talking about moving Jackson away from quarterback in our April Fools mock draft, as well as plenty of times in Scramble and Audibles leading up to that.

66 I remember seeing Colin…

I remember seeing Colin Kaepernick play for the first time against the Rams in 2012; a game in which he scrambled at the first sign of pressure seemingly every snap. And I thought then that he epitomized exactly why the traditionalists felt like that style of QB can never work.

It became a watershed moment for me as more and more Qbs began to buck the trend. Now the question is why that has happened and its not clear to me what the answer is.

I know the prevailing wisdom is the one you suggested - but there have been scrambler's in the past that have made it work. McNabb and McNair come to mind. To me, you need to possess some passing ability that's just enough to ensure that the rest of your game can work well. Joe Webb's of the world cannot no matter how good they are at running.

IMO, maybe its the easier passing climate that has lowered the passing bar that's made scrambling qbs more valuable than in the past.   

67 College used to be option…

College used to be option guys who couldn’t pass and pro-style guys who couldn’t run.

The spread option and air raid styles prized guys who did both. So because they are available, they’ve filtered into the pros.

2 A howitzer without a…

A howitzer without a targeting system

Howitzers usually don't have targeting systems. They are guns, not missiles.

3 I think it's pretty obvious…

I think it's pretty obvious what they're implying - the traditional black, mobile, college QB should move to receiver canard was used on Jackson, whereas Allen, the big, mobile, cannon-armed white guy was never viewed as anything but a QB prospect. This site was on record for liking Jackson's chances for success, and thinking Allen was a wasted draft pick.

24 While I'm sure some people…

While I'm sure some people viewed Allen in that light, the biggest risk with him was that he didn't dominate weak opposition.  From the 2018 QBASE article:

"Last year, Wyoming finished 119th in passing S&P+ out of 130 teams in FBS. That will be the lowest rank ever for a quarterback chosen in the top 100 picks of the NFL draft. Yes, I know, Allen wasn't playing with a bunch of NFL-bound talent around him. He also wasn't facing a lot of NFL-bound talent on defense. The average opponent faced by Wyoming ranked just 83.5 in pass defense S&P+. Allen's performance against top opponents was brutal. He threw two picks with no touchdowns against Iowa, with just 4.35 yards per attempt. He completed just 9-of-24 passes with 64 yards and a pick against Oregon. He completed 44 percent of passes with two picks and only 131 yards against Boise State."

And looking within the 11-team Mountain West conference, Allen was 8th in completion percentage, 10th in yards per attempt, and 7th in passer rating.

10 Black QB Canard

That canard has been dead for probably 20 years. I'm sure those among the Wokerati would love it to still be around but it just isn't.

Plenty of athletic white guy QBs have been moved to other positions including Julian Edelman, John Lovett, Taysom Hill (sort of), or if you want to go back farther Scott Frost, Eric Crouch and Rex Kern.

Furthermore, you can look at Jackson's athletic skills and realize he probably would make a decent, WR, RB or CB .. the same cannot be said about Allen who might make an OK Tight End or H back.

It took incredible vision and guts to restructure the Baltimore offense around a running quarterback to create a truly unique system. Rare in the NFL which is most definitely a copycat league.

There was also plenty of desire to convert Tim Tebow rather than play him at quarterback.

Given the current excellence of black QBs in the NFL it is silly to assume there is any racial bias. Even mediocrities like Teddy Bridgewater, Tyrod Taylor, Brett Huntley, RGIII and Geno Smith do not appear to have a hard time getting on an NFL roster as a QB.

If there was a bias against black quarterbacks Dwayne Haskins will not be in the league next year. But of course we know he will. He has too much talent to ignore and if he matures he may even be able to use it.

That said, I love Lamar and wish him the very best except when he squares off against the Chiefs.

68 What about Kaepernick? Are…

What about Kaepernick? Are you trying to suggest Kap doesn't have a job because he's black?  Or that only white QBs are "allowed" to have political stances?  


Maybe Kap would have a job in the NFL if his girlfriend hadn't made a tweet comparing the Ravens owner to a slaveowner right when Baltimore was considering making him an offer, and maybe he would have one if he had not changed the time and location of the workout the NFL set up for him with a mere 30 minutes notice(and then showed up wearing a t-shirt that said "Kunta Kinte" on it, Kunta Kinte being the name of a fake African ancestor of author Alex Haley in his book Roots that he largely plagiarized from a book titled "The African").


Cap doesn't have an NFL job now because he is not good enough to make his baggage worth putting up with (much like Tim Tebow, a white QB who likewise probably would have had a longer career if he had been good enough to make his baggage worth it for the team despite likely being better than many backup QBs) and because incidents such as the tweet his girlfriend sent and the workout antics make teams question how dedicated he would be if signed.


For backup QB jobs, teams usually go for one of two types of QBs: 1) a young guy who isn't yet good enough right now but may be later, and 2)a guy who isn't good enough to be a regular starter but fits your system, knows your playbook, and can tread water without sinking for a game or two.  Teams have little use for older QBs on the decline that need an offense tailored specifically for them, especially if that QB brings a lot of baggage with him.

21 Matt Jones was switched to…

Matt Jones was switched to WR during the combine.

Tannehill actually went the other way -- he was a WR his first years in college.

Logan Thomas has played as both a starting QB and a starting TE. Honestly, I'm not sure what his race is.



32 Aside from Polian

How loud was the 'Lamar is a WR' movement aside from notable old-codger Bill Polian?

I think you can argue systemic issues dropped him to #32 but that is more about running QBs (and maybe throwing motion/height) to me than his race.

Granted, there's a common element here that a lot of african-american QBs are also great athletes and are running QBs.

The comp to Allen is interesting, but for him he had the height and 'huge arm' stuff helping his cause.

50 Actually

Fans in Buffalo were surprised to discover that Allen had very good running skills. No one seemed to talk about it before the draft; everything I read, for example, was about his (lack of) accuracy.

88 Running of the Bills

Yeah, but traditionally they all run over a cliff together.  

Makes for a crappy post-season.

Of course in this post season, they've hardly run at all. And now that I have tangled metaphors up, I will leave.

6 Of all of these games this…

Of all of these games this week, I would be kind of shocked if Cleveland won. Not because I think the Browns are a fraud, but they just feel like the kind of team that poorly matches up with Kansas City.

They are a team that likes to run the ball while their pass game works on schedule and not from behind. Their defense is also bad imo and while I know it went into garbage time fast last week, the defenses still gave up a lot of yards. 

The sad fact is - if the Chiefs want to, they should be able to pour points on this defense. 

22 Cleveland's offense isn't…

Cleveland's offense isn't the problem. In the last six weeks, they've put up 41 on Tennessee, 42 on Baltimore, and 48 on Pittsburgh. The problem is their defense gave up 35, 47, and 37 in those same games.

7 Bass

Better to note that Bass has only missed 1 FG (61 yd to end 1H vSEA) and 1 XP since week 7. 

Also, kinda funny but he's had 2 FG misses this year that were probably good if the uprights were 5 feet taller.

9 A couple of Baltimore thoughts

I agree that the Ravens are going to blitz much less on Saturday than they have throughout the season. Yannick Ngakoue has been the focus of fan discontent since he arrived via trade mid-season. He needs to show up for Baltimore. I will note that after the Titans' #4 DVOA offense scored its lone touchdown last week, they were held to 103 yards of offense over the final 50 minutes of the game with AJ Brown adding only 3 more catches for 31 yards. Jimmy Smith's return to the lineup means the Ravens can match Humphrey on Beasley man-to-man in the slot.

I've already made this comment elsewhere and won't belabor the point, but since Lamar's return from Covid 6 weeks ago, the Ravens have been averaging an astonishing 262 rushing yards per game. In a press conference Wednesday, when O Coordinator Greg Roman was asked about the recent success of his play calling, he said: "Part of the early and mid part of the season was seeing how people were playing us, running some things against those things and seeing how it would end up. And gathering information for, you know, playing the long game. That factors into our success, and into our evolution."

Fans speculate from time to time that teams are holding things back for use at key moments later in the season, and I thought it was interesting to hear Roman affirm that he was at times calling plays essentially as experimentation. Maybe during this recent streak, we're seeing the results of that experimentation. At the very least, I'm not hearing the narrative that the Ravens' offensive success stems from opponents' unfamiliarity and that they get shut down the second time a defense gets to look at them.

57 The last two Baltimore vs KC…

The last two Baltimore vs KC matchups were blowouts (with the inevitable Andy Reid clock killing offense for the last 1.5 quarters to make it closer than it should be). But the BAL running game was effective yardage-wise in their last couple meetings. It'll have to be for them to win. 

KC actually held both Allen and Jackson in check passing this season.  Combined, they were a collective 29/55 for 219 yards over both games.  So, yeah, no matter who wins if they face KC they better be able to run the ball.

18 Refs

Last week looked like the first month of the season, the refs weren’t calling blatant holds and they let a lot of mugging go on in the defensive backfield. Any insight into this week’s crews and if that could propel teams like balt (and lesser extent rams)?

61 I was surprised

In reply to by Jetspete

I was surprised this wasn't discussed more in general, but I presume media types don't like to harsh on officiating too much. The WAS-TB game seemed especially egregious to my eyes when I watched Chase Young.

If this continues I would expect Myles Garrett to be similarly neutralized, since Mahomes is right up there with Brady as NFL darlings

31 "Oh, the Chiefs have a run…

"Oh, the Chiefs have a run game as well."

Not that I like the underdogs' odds that much more, but looking like Claude E-H might not play.


60 so is weighted dvoa more…

so is weighted dvoa more predictive, or regular dvoa?  either way, I know 'garbage time' is generally included because its generally still useful information, but this particular Chiefs team seems really unique, historically (finished 6th in dvoa, but beat 4 of the 5 teams ahead of them, and led all of them by multiple scores before the games tightened, and then the Chiefs closed the opponents out on offense);  reminds me of the kd warriors, who also got sloppy or bored from time to time.  I know the argument is that they're so low variance compared to other contenders, but they were in the regular season last year, too

80 As a longtime reader and…

As a longtime reader and poster and faithful if unwilling adherent to Rule 1, I request politely that much of this thread be deleted. If I see the phrase "Wokerati" in a thread on this site again, I may have to excuse myself permanently.

82 Of course you would

But you must learn instead of hiding behind a facade of imaginary rules just because it makes you uncomfortable dealing with real world problems that leak into a shared hobby that all of us spend too much on.

An example shouldn't be deleted. 

85 I'll do as I feel

just as you do too. Expect I won't ignore suspect things and let them slide like you and the league are with Dan Synder bases on plausible deniability.

Ashamed to take part in a discussion on sad is it that that is imaginary rule #1. Says a lot about your character if you can't even do it anon. SMH.

86 While I participated and 100…

While I participated and 100% stand by everything I wrote, I would be fine if the thread(s) were deleted.  I definitely respect this opinion coming from a long-time insightful commenter such as yourself, TomC.

I also second your opinion on the term "wokerati".

83 giving/getting

"This is the biggest spread of any of the week's games, with the Chiefs getting 10 points. "


The Chiefs are giving 10. The Browns are getting 10.