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18 Dec 2006

Audibles at the Line: Week 15

Each Sunday, the FO staff sends around e-mails to each other, both during and after the games. It lets us share ideas for columns and comments, and get an idea of how teams that we can't watch are playing. Be aware that the material in this roundtable might seem a bit disjointed and un-edited. It also might still show up later in the week in other columns, or in comments in PFP 2007. Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.

Dallas Cowboys 38 at Atlanta Falcons 28

Russell Levine: If you don't have NFL Network and can't see tonight's game, you can at least take solace in the fact that you're missing another excruciating play-by-play performance from Bryant Gumbel. He actually has a little more life tonight -- sounded like he was asleep in Pittsburgh last week -- and Vermeil is an upgrade over Collinsworth. But Vermeil's losing his voice tonight, leaving Gumbel to pull more of the weight.

Twice in the first half, the Falcons have put Schaub in and left Vick out there, lined up at tailback. Both times, everyone in the booth missed it until the play was on. Schaub completed a pass for a first down on the first one, and on the second they ran one of those misdirection flip plays to Vick for a modest gain. How many people thought to themselves in that moment, "Finally, the Falcons have figured it out! Just stick him at tailback."

This game is a circus of big plays and huge hits. Rod Coleman is all over the field for the Falcons, and DeMarcus Ware had an insanely athletic interception on a naked bootleg that he returned for a touchdown.

Gumbel just trumped his earlier mistake when he failed to realize that an illegal formation penalty had nullified an Atlanta TD. For some reason, he thought the call would be on the extra point. Brutal.

As an aside, Vick is throwing the ball really, really well from the pocket tonight, stepping up and buying extra time while stifling his instincts to run. He's also a couple of deep balls and Michael Jenkins, Roddy White and Ashley Lelie are all involved.

Will Carroll: Smart move to bring Marshall Faulk into the booth as Vermeil loses it (his voice). Not the same as Jaws and Vermeil, but not bad.

Vick's throw to Lelie for the TD was a throw that I don't think anyone else in the NFL can make. If this football thing doesn't work out for him, he could close.

BTW, someone sent me an idea that "Ron Mexico" has good and bad games on a schedule of his herpes flareups. There's certainly no way to confirm this and I thankfully don't know much about herpes. Anyone think there's anything to this?

Russell Levine: I've been impressed with Faulk tonight. He spots some things that happen with the O/D lines right away, even on plays made down the field. Surprising to hear that from a skill position guy who's very green as an analyst. But it makes sense in his case; I've always heard that he has an incredible football mind.

Agree on the throw to Lelie. That in a nutshell is what I'd love to see Vick become on a regular basis. Use the incredible agility and the threat of the scramble to buy time in the pocket for late-opening receivers, then use the rifle arm to put the ball there.

Will Carroll: Faulk made me wonder if recent players would have better "vision." His pickup of the hold and discussion of the Adams "touch block" were things that I don't think normal people see.

The problem with that idea of Vick is that in doing that, he'll also make the stupid play about as many times. It's an interesting conundrum -- would you rather have the Michael Vick/Tony Romo talent with "gunslinger" tendencies or the Brad Johnson/Trent Dilfer style "don't bleep it up" QB?

Russell Levine: Egads -- they've benched Vermeil and his balky voice in favor of the three-man booth with Faulk and Deion Sanders. Unfortunate. I'd like to hear how Faulk could have done on his own.

Interesting question, on the types of QBs. It seems the NFL today is so geared toward "game managers" at QB and I'd like to see a few teams go back to the Bradshaw style of throwing deep a ton and not worrying so much about interceptions. I guess the Vermeil/Martz Rams were the closest thing we've seen to that in the current era.

Vick is throwing strikes tonight.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31 at Chicago Bears 34 (OT)

Michael David Smith: You can sense the excitement every time Tampa Bay kicks because everyone in Chicago wants to see Devin Hester. It's easy to forget how rare a kick return for a touchdown is.

Aaron Schatz: This reminds me of one of the things I need to write about this week. If you remember this from the fantasy defense article in PFP 2006, there is very little correlation between kickoff/punt return touchdowns from year to year. That's not to say that Hester isn't a great weapon or that he won't mean good field position for the Bears for the next few seasons, but there's a good chance that in 2007 he'll have one touchdown return -- or even zero -- instead of six.

Ian Dembsky: Well, it appears the Bruce Gradkowski era has come to an end. Can't wait for the Tim Rattay experience!

Umm... Tampa Bay just TIED Chicago at 31 thanks to a Tim Rattay-Ike Hilliard touchdown. I had longshot money on that exact scenario. I'm rich!

Aaron Schatz: I can't believe that the Bucs are tied with the Bears -- and Grossman is playing WELL.

Russell Levine: Call me crazy, but Davis did not catch the ball that put Chicago into position for the winning kick, but it wasn't reviewed from the booth. Looked like the ball was pinned to his body by his arm and clearly hit the ground as he went down. That was a third-down play, so a reversal there means the Bears are punting.

There had already been two replay reviews in OT and the game was dragging on, and it doesn't matter if Tampa wins or loses, but seriously, that play HAS to be reviewed.

Michael David Smith: I haven't seen a conclusive angle, but I agree, it's absurd that it wasn't even reviewed. They reviewed the punt prior to that, and that was a much more clearly correct call than the Davis "catch."

Aaron Schatz: I believe that I complained about this with the Corey Dillon fumble against the Bears inside two minutes in Week 12. I don't understand how the booth does not err on the side of reviewing plays. Once again -- it isn't an issue of asking them to overturn plays, just check them when the coaches can't challenge.

Michael David Smith: Grossman didn't face as much pressure as I thought he would with his left tackle, John Tait out of the game with an injury and John St. Clair replacing him.

Chicago used Devin Hester as a wide receiver; Grossman threw him a pass that fell incomplete in the second quarter. Just something for opposing defensive coordinators to think about the rest of the year.

Tampa Bay tried to avoid Hester, by trying a surprise onside kick in the second quarter. Chicago was ready for it and got good field position.

Washington Redskins 16 at New Orleans Saints 10

Ryan Wilson: You know, Sean Payton seems harmless enough, but let somebody screw up and he's not afraid to go bonkers once that player gets back to the sidelines. I don't think Aaron Brooks would've fared very well in this system. He just gave TE Billy Miller an earful after false-starting and a play later ripped Jammal Brown a new one after missing a block.

Bill Barnwell: I guess being an assistant under Parcells will do that for you.

I have to admit that I was totally wrong about Payton. When he was the Giants' offensive coordinator and was relieved of the playcalling duties by Jim Fassel (hey karma) I never -- ever -- would have figured him to be a competent OC.

Ryan Wilson: Jason Campbell just dropped a beautiful 30-yard ball into Santana Moss for a TD ... in double coverage. Moss had a step on both defenders because (a) he's really, really good, and (b) Campbell play-actioned to Ladell Betts, who's been a beast in place of Janky Spanky.

I don't think you can blitz Drew Brees. The Redskins have thrown everything at him and he always knows where the open receiver is. A lot of credit should go to the offensive line for an overall solid blocking effort this season, but even with a man running free, Brees rarely makes a mistake due to pressure.

The Saints just scored on a three-yard run. Before the snap, TE Miller splits out wide right taking Sean Taylor with him and then McAllister runs a toss sweep left and waltzes in untouched. That's one way to take Taylor out of the play.

My bad, Drew Brees, I totally jinxed you. Brees just got sacked on a nice play by DE Carter. A couple of plays later he woefully underthrows the ball, and Carlos Rogers, who looked to be beat in coverage, gets his first pick (I think) of the season.

This is a weird game, but like last week, the Redskins are running the ball very well. Ladell Betts is just killing people. Campbell has had some drops on deep balls, but he's been pretty good all day. I don't know what Gregg Williams is doing differently this week, but Brees just hasn't been able to get anything going. Through three quarters, he had like 80 passing yards.

Bress drove the Saints down the field in the two-minute offense and Carlos freakin' Rogers broke up a pass in the end zone on fourth-and-8, effectively ending the game.

Aaron Schatz: Apparently there is a reasonably good explanation for Washington's victory over New Orleans: the Football Outsiders Message Board Curse. Someone named "Chris" spent the whole week slagging DVOA in the comments. He said he was a Jacksonville fan, but spent the whole time complaining about the rating for the Saints, so I guess FOMBC got a two-fer.

Michael David Smith: Mike Karney is having a very good year as a lead blocker for Deuce McAllister. Too bad Reggie Bush doesn't follow blocks.

Devery Henderson dropped a perfect pass for Brees that should have gained about 40 yards.

Houston Texans 7 at New England Patriots 40

Aaron Schatz: CBS really needs to get its act together and go out to get a couple more HD trucks. Watching this game in regular definition is a bit of a bummer after watching HD every other week.

After 11 1/2 minutes it is already 17-0 Patriots. They are screening on the Texans a lot, and Faulk just took one in. Rich Gannon makes a good point -- the offensive line for the Pats is mobile, which is one reason they do well with screens. They may not be blocking as well as years past, but they are mobile.

I know now why the Texans never have Carr throw long. The two times he's thrown long so far were both interceptions. The first one, Seymour was being double-teamed by the LT and TE -- it looked like a triple, but it wasn't, because Ron Dayne ran into the back of the new blockers while trying to go out on a pattern -- and then Carr goes to throw downfield and Seymour jumps up for the INT. Then later Carr throws long and it gets tipped by Tedy Bruschi into the hands of safety James Sanders.

Gary Kubiak faked a punt on fourth-and-1 with an attempted sneak by the "protector." Gannon was right on this one too -- the Texans are out of the playoffs, what the hell did they have to lose? TMQ will be sure to mention that play, although clearly fortune could care less about the bold this week.

I know it is wrong to complain when my team is winning 17-0 but I can't believe that we released Doug Gabriel so that we could play Kelvin Kight. The word around here is that it is not an issue of that one fumble, that Gabriel didn't fit the Pats' team-first attitude the whole time. I charted the second Buffalo-New England game this week and Gabriel was great in that game. I don't care if Gabriel was down with the Patriots way or not -- it made no sense to release him with three weeks left in the regular season so that the Patriots could use Kelvin Kight on anything other than special teams.

Every time that Dexter Wynn fields a punt or kickoff for the Texans, I want the announcers to call him "The Toy Cannon."

Ian Dembsky: So glad I'm stuck with non-HD Patriots vs. Texans in a blowout, and it's not even 2:00. Ron Dayne up the middle for two yards! How exciting! Hmm... What else is going on? Arlen Harris is up to six carries already -- Go, Loser League running back, go!

Off to James Brown in New York... (We watch the highlight of Cedric Houston run one in against the Vikings) "And here ... we have ... Brad Johnson handing off to Travis Taylor for the touchdown." Come on -- how hard is it to know it's Cedric Houston? Does he have to be a robot that reads what's handed to him? Embarrassing.

Tully Banta-Cain totally whacked David Carr on the head on the last play, but no flag. I guess the officials are as bored with this one as we are.

Bill Moore: New England is playing well, but we (and the announcers) need to remember that they are playing Houston for God's sake.

Jabar Gaffney just caught a TD pass which makes up for his drop on a 40-yard perfect bomb in the first quarter. Unlike last week, Brady has thrown deep a few times, which has the opportunity to pick up not only yards but also penalties.

Stephen Neal is having a nice blocking game. He was out a few games, I can't remember which. I would be interested in comparing the line performance with and without him.

Carr has targeted Chad Scott quite often, so at least Houston did study their game film. I think every pass in the first quarter targeted him. Between tipped balls, drops, and an occasional defense, few passes were successful. Carr clearly hasn't played well in the first half, but his receivers have to share some of the blame too. Gannon keeps talking about taking Carr out. Why? So they can see what Sage Rosenfels can do?

Aaron Schatz: Actually, Sage Rosenfels is out for the year. The backup is Bradlee Van Pelt. And hey, destroying the Texans is better than barely beating the Texans. How did Jacksonville lose to this team twice???

Everybody out there was in full-on panic mode when Stephen Gostkowski started the season 3-for-6 on field goals. Since then, including today, he's 14-for-15 on field goals.

We have a reader on the discussion thread who has been complaining about the Patriots not throwing deep all day and asking what's wrong with the offense. Mind you, they won the game 40-7. I think somebody's expectations may be a little out of whack.

I enjoyed the play where Houston rushed two on third-and-long. Two. Three linemen, and one dropped into coverage.

Bill Moore: Kevin Harlan: "Rich, did you think NE would play this well?"

Rich Gannon: "You could almost guarantee it. This team is 18-4 since 2000 under Belichick [in December]. They know how to play in December. Come playoff time, this team knows how to kick it in gear."

Umm, isn't December 10th in December? They played terrible against Miami last week. Overall, I like Gannon, but at least he's learning the standard broadcasters' jumble that fills air time.

Aaron Schatz: The Pats have hit the "mass subs" button from EA NCAA Football. Pierre Woods! Corey Mays! Larry Izzo on actual defense! Rusher McFumbles is on his way in. This is the week that I wish I had Sunday Ticket. I know I should have it when I do this for a living, but I don't like satellite. I hope Arlen Specter makes some noise and we can get it on cable.

It makes me sad that Vinny is taking knees instead of Rusher McFumbles going for his first touchdown of the season, but at least they'll have to switch us to another game now...

Bill Barnwell: I am convinced Heath Evans is on Bill Belichick's fantasy team after that end-of-game run.

Bill Moore: NE got an illegal formation penalty on a kneel play. I don't think I have ever seen that happen before. Up 40-7, they were unable to burn the clock, so they kneeled on fourth down, causing a turnover on downs. I don't think I've ever seen that either.

Bill Barnwell: The former caused the latter. For some reason that last two minutes took about fifteen. It was like an NBA game. And it should also be noted that Houston got the ball with 35 seconds left, down 33 points at their own 35, and ran a draw play.

Bill Moore: Yeah, I expected Houston to come out and kneel. Seemed a bit futile to run a play and risk injury.

Michael David Smith: Where does David Carr rank on the list of a) all-time biggest draft busts, and b) all-time most overpaid players?

Vin Gauri: As to (a), somewhere between Ryan Leaf and Heath Shuler? He'll probably end up somewhere between them on his future after football as well (assistant high school football coach vs. Congressman).

Aaron Schatz: That's probably a discussion far more complex than we can have in the Audibles e-mails. While he was horribly bad today, I still think there is a lot to say for the argument that Houston's constant offensive line problems stunted Carr's development. It's interesting to go back and look at that draft. There's only one player out of the top six who worked out well. Carr and Harrington are mediocre at best. Ryan Sims is nothing special. Quentin Jammer is nothing special. Mike Williams is crap.

But man oh man, wouldn't the Texans happily trade David Carr and Mario Williams right now to have Julius Peppers and Vince Young instead?

Ned Macey: Top 10 QB in the last fifteen years worse than Carr:
David Klingler
Rick Mirer
Heath Shuler
Ryan Leaf
Tim Couch
Akili Smith
Joey Harrington
TBD: Alex Smith

Overall # 1 picks worse than Carr
Steve Emtman
Ki-Jana Carter
Tim Couch
Courtney Brown
TBD: Alex Smith

A couple of those first overalls had injuries, so if the question is where does he rank in terms of first overall draft busts, then I'd say pretty high. Draft busts in general, not so high. In terms of people whose teams paid an additional bonus to pick up extra years on their contract before a draft filled with talented players? I imagine he is first in that list.

Pittsburgh Steelers 37 at Carolina Panthers 3

Ryan Wilson: Early in the first quarter with the game 0-0, the Panthers decided to punt on 4th-and-1 from the Steelers' 32. Shockingly, Kasay missed the 50-yarder.

On fourth-and-inches on the Carolina 10, the Steelers go for it, get it, and four plays later Pittsburgh faces fourth-and-1 from the Carolina 1. Annnnnnd ... the Steelers kick the field goal. If you're going for it from the Carolina 10, why wouldn't you go for it from the Carolina 1?

Ian Dembsky: Cowher's just trying to drive us fantasy owners of Willie Parker crazy. First-and-goal on the 1 earlier; Roethlisberger sneaks for the TD. This time? Field goal. Hand it to Willie!

Ryan Wilson: Willie Parker busts a 41-yard TD run, goes over 100 yards on the road for the first time all season, and the Panthers have officially given up. Actually, it looked like they gave up sometime in the second quarter, but now there's no doubt.

Rookie safety Anthony Smith intercepted a pass and was high-stepping marching-band-style down the sidelines. He had an opportunity for a big return but instead decided to showboat and then step out of bounds. Dick LeBeau, the most laid back guy in the league, went Sean Payton on him once he got to the bench. In his three years in Pittsburgh, I've never seen LeBeau even pretend to be uspet about something. It was stupid, but I'm pretty sure Smith won't be doing it again. A few minutes after getting ripped, LeBeau came over and had a laugh with Smith.

Michael David Smith: Willie Parker, when asked about his performance, said he didn't know how to evaluate himself immediately after the game, adding, "it's just like being in a fight. You never know what happened until you see it on tape." Willie Parker gets in fights that he tapes, then reviews the tapes to see how he does?

Miami Dolphins 0 at Buffalo Bills 21

Doug Farrar: Well, you have J.P. Losman and his weekly 90-yard bomb to Lee Evans. His first half against Miami: Five completions, 105 yards. Passes of 37, 33 and 28 yards to Evans and Robert Royal.

Michael David Smith: Jason Taylor is looking great as usual. Is that guy ever going to get old?

New York Jets 26 at Minnesota Vikings 13

Doug Farrar: At least the Vikings won't need to discuss their predominant off-season need. The run defense ranks #1 in DVOA by a crushing margin, but Chad Pennington has gone 22-of-28 for 247 yards and a touchdown against them in the first half alone.

Vin Gauri: Nice to see that Eric Mangini has one-upped his Jedi master in terms of the latest in gym teacher attire. Looked like Mangini was wearing a black XXXL muumuu.

Jacksonville Jaguars 17 at Tennessee Titans 24

Ryan Wilson: Man, that David Garrard sure ... helps the other team just win! Chris Hope returned a Garrard pass for six. Earlier in the third quarter, Tennessee returned a Garrard fumble 90-something yards for a TD. After being down early, Tennessee scores 17 in the third and lead 24-10. Oh, yeah, Vince Young's 8-of-14 for 85 yards so far.

Doug Farrar: The Tennessee defense is just going insane. They gave Jacksonville a four-down stop with three of those downs coming from the Tennessee 1-yard line. Pac-Man Jones broke up the fourth-down pass to Matt Jones. The Tennessee defense has outscored the Jaguars' offense, 21-10.

Aaron Schatz: The world's craziest, least consistent team is even crazier today. Until the Titans stopped that fourth-and-1 and started to run out the clock, the Jags held Travis Henry to 13 yards on seven carries. The funny thing is that Jacksonville's DVOA for this game may end up around 0%. Remember, all those defensive scores don't show up in DVOA past the usual penalty for turnovers.

Ned Macey: Don't know if it was because of injury, but the Titans started linebacker Stephen Tulloch today. Guy can move. He burst through the line and made a great stop on Jones-Drew. Next play, he runs into coverage and ... misses the tackle. Bulluck runs over, picks Wrightster up, and torpedoes him, likely taking out his frustration on Tulloch's missed tackle. Nonetheless, that's a nice linebacking corps they've built there.

It's funny how much the draft matters. Two terrible drafts in 2003 and 2004, and the Titans fall apart. Great draft in 2005 (Pac-Man, Roos, Brandon Jones, Stewart, Sciafe) plus Young and Tulloch in 2006, and suddenly they're pretty good again.

Doug Farrar: I'm listening to the Giants-Eagles game on the radio, and I enjoyed hearing the crew talk about how "Vince Young beat the Jaguars." Gosh, what do you think did it -- the one pass for six yards in the second half, or the four rushing yards on four carries?

Ned Macey: The one thing mainstream media may never really understand is opponent adjustments. These were the numbers through Week 13:

Quarterbacks with a DVOA 5% or more higher than VOA (149 or more passes at this time)
Eli Manning (4.9%)
Matt Leinart (5.8%)
David Carr (5.6%)
Ben Roethlisberger (6.1%)
Jake Plummer (7.8%)
Alex Smith (5.5%)

DVOA 5% lower than VOA
Marc Bulger (4.7%)
Donovan McNabb (11.3%)
Tony Romo (12.7%)
David Garrard (7.4%)
Byron Leftwich (9.1%)

That's a who's who of players getting over or under-hyped respectively (except Leftwich). And, how bad are the pass defenses the Jaguars have been playing?

Detroit Lions 9 at Green Bay Packers 17

Michael David Smith: Commentator on Mike Williams: "I don't think the coaching staff has much confidence in him." Gee, you don't think so?

Ned Macey: I want to believe in Marinelli; seems like a good "football" guy. But what the hell is going on with this team? If Kitna really starts the next two games, that's an embarrassment. I don't think it is all his fault, but why do you have McCown on your roster? (Insert wide receiver joke here.)

By the way, I'm not sure how much any of you guys weigh, but I think the Lions are holding open tryouts for defensive line this week.

Michael David Smith: I've totally given up on trying tojudge Marinelli, and I retroactively withdraw any previous judgments I've made of Mornhinweg or Mariucci. I just don't think you can judge a coach based on what he does with a team assembled by Matt Millen.

Denver Broncos 37 at Arizona Cardinals 20

Ryan Wilson: Jay Cutler just ran a naked bootleg to his left, faced a Cardinals pass rusher and unloaded a 50-plus seed to Javon Walker in the end zone. Unbelievable. That play alone makes up for his two previous uneven performances. Jay Cutler just ... throws the ball long!

Philadelphia Eagles 36 at New York Giants 22

Mike Tanier: 7-0 Giants. Gonna be a long afternoon I bet.

Bill Barnwell: It's early doors yet. Like I said a couple of weeks ago, no game is ever out of the Giants grasp of losing.

Mike Tanier: Brian Westbrook and Correll Buckhalter in the same backfield. Tasty.

It looks like Rod Hood will be battling Plaxico Burress all day. Plaxico's kneecaps may be sore by the end of the game.

Dhani Jones, you are the Eagles Idiot Defender of the Week for throwing Tiki Barber to the ground when he is clearly out of bounds.

Ryan Wilson: I think Dhani Jones is kind of a goofball, but I'm not sure if that was a late hit on Tiki Barber. I love the fact that Shockey looks at Jones and points to his helmet as if to say, "Use your head dumbass." There's a reality show in there somewhere.

I love Jeremy Shockey in a train wreck sorta way. After Eli threw that wacky pick off Patterson's helmet, Shockey barrels over some Eagle after the play and gets a personal foul penalty. Does anybody else find it hilarious that Tom Coughlin is such a disciplinarian yet his team must lead the league in really dumb penalties.

Al Bogdan: In terms of historical significance, how far below Curt Schilling's bloody sock is Jeff Garcia's bloody wrist pad?

Mike Tanier: About 3 orders of magnitude.

Vin Gauri: That was the first time Philly has gone for a two-point conversion this year? Are they the last team in the NFL to do so? And the conversion was called back for PI on Westbrook, so they kicked the XP anyway. Iggles 21, Giants 16. Giants safety Jason Bell took an awful angle to allow Westbrook to spring for the go-ahead touchdown on an Ace 3-wide formation.

Mike Tanier: So, a taunting call on Garcia, a dumb pass for an interception, a pass interference call in which it looks like the ball is about five yards out of bounds, a defensive holding call which is complete gibberish, and a touchdown by the Giants. We are not amused.

Aaron Schatz: This game has been a show of the things we already knew about the Eagles and Giants defenses. The Eagles have missed some tackles, and Lito Sheppard blew it on that huge Plaxico Burress reception by trying to jump a route that Burress didn't even run. The Giants have had a bunch of blown coverages and plays where the defense looked confused. Of course, it doesn't matter if they blow a coverage when Jeff Garcia serves up an interception like he did in the fourth quarter. I think the gift-wrapping store went out of business after Garcia was done with that one.

Ryan Wilson: To be fair to Sheppard, it looked like Burress ran a slant-and-go, and not knowing which Eli would show up at the park, it's not a completely awful gamble. On the Reggie Brown TD to put the Eagles up late in the fourth, I was hoping R.W. McQuarters would get a personal foul penalty for kicking the pylon after getting burned. Just to emphasize how dumb that rule really is.

Just out of curiosity, did Archie ever articulate why Eli wouldn't go to San Diego? After the Trent Cole pick-for-six, I'm guessing Eli would take a three-year do-over and he'd just go to the Chargers where the media pressures aren't quite so intense.

Mike Tanier: Trent Cole ... high-stepping.

If we blow this one, the jumping ledge on the Walt Whitman bridge is going to look like the line for Play Station 3's at Best Buy.

Aaron Schatz: After a while with Philadelphia, their DVOA and W-L record were so far apart that I was looking for any reason to make excuses. When McNabb got hurt, it made things really easy -- I could just point out that the team was about to collapse without him. Instead, the Eagles have now won three straight, pretty much iced away a playoff spot, and still could win the division by winning the last two. The lesson, yet again, is trust the numbers and don't be so quick to look for excuses when DVOA looks strange.

St. Louis Rams 20 at Oakland Raiders 0

Ned Macey: I know Aaron Brooks is not good, but he is Carson Palmer compared to Andrew Walter. Down two scores in the fourth quarter, Walter comes in and leads the Raiders on consecutive interception drives. On the other side, the Raiders defense blitzed the bejesus out of St. Louis. Four sacks in 26 pass attempts. You just feel so bad watching them. The Rams' two touchdown drives went for 24 and 19 yards.

Kansas City Chiefs 9 at San Diego Chargers 20

Vin Gauri: Al Michaels is calling the Chargers "Air Coryell Plus?" I know Marty has loosened up Rivers since the Baltimore loss, but let's not get carried away. Too much to ask of Michaels, I know.

Aaron Schatz: Let's all agree now: If he signs elsewhere as a free agent, Michael Turner goes on the cover of PFP 2007.

Ryan Wilson: Reader Steve Borkowski just left this comment in the AOL FanHouse: "...Chargers running back gets 29 touchdowns in one season. That is more than the lions have rushed for in the entire Millen era..." I don't know if it's true, but it's certainly believable. Of course, as I type this, LT gets No. 30.

Doug Farrar: The fact that I felt compelled to go back and check probably says it all.

Year DET Rushing TD
2001 8
2002 9
2003 5
2004 7
2005 10
2006 9
Total 48

Michael David Smith: It's not true, but it's close.

Ryan Wilson: Thanks Doug. Steve Borkowski's off the Christmas card list.

Bill Barnwell: What about with guys Millen acquired as opposed to guys he inherited?

James Stewart 1
Cory Schlesinger 3
Lamont Warren 3
Mike McMahon 1
Millen Total: 0

James Stewart 4
Mike McMahon 3
Cory Schlesinger 2
Millen Total: 0

Shawn Bryson 3
Olandis Gary 2
Millen Total: 5

Kevin Jones 5
Artrose Pinner 2
Millen Total: 7

Kevin Jones 5
Artrose Pinner 3
Shawn Bryson 1
Jeff Garcia 1
Millen Total: 10

Kevin Jones 6
Jon Kitna 2
Arlen Harris 1
Millen Total: 9

So Millen-Acquired Players 31, Tomlinson 30.

Doug Farrar: Ha! There you go, getting all sabermetric...

Mike Tanier: This conversation is a clear indictment of the Sunday Night game, which I am not watching because I am on an Eagles high.

Though I tuned in long enough to see an LT touchdown. That's not very long.

Aaron Schatz: What on earth is going on with this punt block? How the hell did the Chiefs block a punt, yet the Chargers keep the ball, and then Tomlinson runs for an 85-yard touchdown????

Vin Gauri: I thought Triplett said that the ball was touched by the Chiefs over the line of scrimmage, making it a live ball. But it sure didn't look that way to me on the play or the replay.

Russell Levine: The punt was blocked, but still went beyond the line of scrimmage, which makes it no different from any other punt. It was definitely touched beyond the line by a Kansas City player, then recovered by a Charger.

Ryan Wilson: Yep, Michaels just explained it. I want to disagree with the call, but it's not even esoteric enough to bitch about. In fact, it's not esoteric at all -- it makes sense. I feel weird saying that.

Aaron Schatz: This is something that I don't think Mike mentioned in his piece about Lorenzo Neal last week, but another great thing about Neal is that no fullback in the league is a better runner on the fullback give. A nice weapon for converting third-and-short.

I'm surprised by how well the Chiefs secondary is playing in this game, but then again, Eric Parker went out early with an injury, McCardell doesn't seem to be playing much receiver, and Malcom Floyd is inactive.

Enough with the running backs taking the snap in the shotgun already.

Will Carroll: Nothing's more boring that hearing about someone else's fantasy team but ... I'm head to head with The Schwab for the playoffs this week and came in down 20. No way LDT goes for 20 more than LJ, is there? Sure enough ... we're tied at 85. Still very uphill -- he has Wayne and Vinatieri; I only have Marvin.

Bill Barnwell: I wholeheartedly disagree. Hearing about the ESPN internal fantasy league could never, ever, ever, ever get boring. Especially if you beat the Schwab.

Aaron Schatz: It's strange how the FO staffers all end up with the same players. I also have LT and Harrison, and like Russell I have Hasselbeck. I've changed the name of my team to "LT and Some Other Guys."

Later This Week

Any Given Sunday: Redskins over Saints (probably)
Every Play Counts: Marion Barber vs. Julius Jones

Posted by: admin on 18 Dec 2006

180 comments, Last at 25 Dec 2006, 10:18pm by Jivas


by stag hunter (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 12:44pm

That Demarcus Ware pick reminded me of the 49er's Tim McDonald's INT return for a touchdown vs the Redskins about 11 years ago... anyone else remember that one?

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 12:44pm

Going into 2006, the Vikes biggest needs were at linebacker and interior blocking.

Now there is no question going into 2007 the needs are pass rushers, DBs, and WRs.

by pr9000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 12:45pm

I think Deion Sanders = Joe Theismann with louder shirt and suit collars.

by Israel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 12:50pm

BTW, someone sent me an idea that “Ron Mexico� has good and bad games on a schedule of his herpes flareups.

Speaking of which, what happened to Will's injury analysis column from last season?

by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 12:52pm

I think there's something to that "recent retired players in the booth" theory. I was impressed with Faulk and Gannon this weekend.

by David (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 12:52pm

He now writes it for ESPN Insider.

by Palo Losman (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 12:52pm

WHEN are you guys going to admit that you are wrong about JP??

#9 in QB rating on a below-average team

by dryheat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 12:54pm

#2...You're OK with the quarterbacking situation?

On top of Sean Payton being relieved of play calling for the Giants (which I don't remember), I know that Parcells took play-calling away from him last year.

by EagleWingDude (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 12:55pm

RE: "Apparently there is a reasonably good explanation for Washington’s victory over New Orleans: the Football Outsiders Message Board Curse."

You have disrespected the Eagles by predicting their collapse and your DVOA system is terrible (even though it has ranked them higher than everyone else out there). And you are just an Eagles hater - and Mike T, too!. The Eagles should be higher than 11th on the Fox ranking - they are clearly should be no lower than 4th. Good riddance!

P.S. the Saints still aren't ranked high enough you morons! they are like a team of Supermans who just had a minor let down last week!

by Trevor (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:01pm

i watched and listened to the nfl network game on sat. i thought the 3 man booth was great, Deion seemed somewhat subdued, Marshall was on top of it was the analyst and Gumbell pretty much stayed in his lane. Well announced game i thought, guess i was alone.

by Harry (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:01pm

I love this website, but I've decided I really don't like Aaron Schatz as a person, based almost entirely on the incredibly stupid nickname Aaron has to drag up every time Matt Cassel is mentioned. What did Cassel ever do to Aaron? Sleep with his wife? If you're a Pats fan, why would you go so far out of your way to mock someone who appears to be trying hard and has never done anything to hurt the Patriots? Mocking Monty Beisel would be understandable, but Cassel? Aaron you really appear to be an asshole. I hope for your family's sake this is just your writer's persona and not the way you are in real life.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:01pm

You do realize that if the Saints don't finish with the #2 seed, Chris might be in a bit of trouble, right?

I also anticipate this week's AGS to be the shortest on record: FOMBC. There, I just wrote it for you.

OK, actually, the Indigenous Persons played a great game, particularly their offensive line. And this was the game where the Saints REALLY missed Hollis Thomas in the middle. Offensively for the Saints, yes, Brees had a rough time of it, but that was due in large part to the schemes that the tastefully named Gregg Williams threw at him. It seemed that Brees was confused on more than one occasion and expected pressure where there wasn't. Good work by the Washington staff all around. Sure, some of Payton's playcalling left something to be desired, and there were some execution and protection issues, but the bottom line is that Washington played a very, very good game and flat out beat the Saints. Good win for Washington.

by Rocco (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:05pm

#4- Will left to go work for ESPN. They keep him around for Audibles, probably so they can get him in a rowboat with Al Neri when the time is right.

by navin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:07pm

Yeah, I remember Tim McDonald's pick in the divisional playoffs. Of course McDonald was nowhere near as athletic as Ware is. I think McDonald just stuck his hands up, and got lucky that Rypien lodged the ball in there. Of course it was 16 years ago, 1990-91, so my memory's a little fuzzy.

by zlionsfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:07pm

Ned, I don't think it's going to help to put in McCown (or anyone else) at QB. Without Jones, the Lions have even less of a running game (if that's possible), and you can't really learn that much about a QB if you're a bad team, you're passing all the time, and everyone knows it.

On the other hand, you might be able to tell what kind of Lions QB he'll be. :(

I'm just disappointed that they're playing the Bears next week. I'm in my league's championship game, and wanted to pick up the Lions' opponent's defense (I picked up the Packers for this week), but obviously Chicago isn't available. By the way, props to FO for touting Maroney - before his injury, he'd helped me quite a bit, and I picked up Kevin Faulk this week to take his place.

The estimable crew of Matt Vasgersian and JC Pearson was on the Oakland-St. Louis game, I think, with another gentleman in the booth. I think the ratings for that game might actually be negative.

I was charting Oakland-Cincinnati last week, and Steve Tasker mentioned that one problem with Oakland was that Al Davis was constantly trying to relive the glory years by bringing back figures from Oakland's past, and that it wasn't working, that the problems in Oakland were organizational. (Either he or GUS JOHNSON!!! also mentioned that their offense seemed to be a '70s-style offense, although I think Al really wants it to be an AFL offense.) Yeah, that might be obvious to some, but it was nice to hear commentary that wasn't blah-blah-blah for a change.

One of my friends called me and asked me about the SNF punt; I wasn't watching, so I had to piece it together by asking her questions, and I didn't ask where the Chiefs' player was when he touched the ball. Nice job by the officials to get it right.

It seems to me that that's one of those plays where you can't fault the guy for reacting, but ideally, you'd like him to realize that it's a punt, and he should just let it go. (Then again, a punt bouncing that low might just as well bounce back and hit him.)

by Bill Cowher (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:15pm

A few comments:

That was a really long running commentary on the game nobody needed to watch beyond the 2nd quarter (pats-texans). Also, I know I've seen a couple of teams kneel in the 4th quarter and turn the ball over on downs. In fact, I think Cowher did it against the patriots during Ben's rookie season when they snapped the Pat's win streak.

I got to watch Redskins-Saints and I'm still confused as to how the Redskins won. The redskins just kept chucking the deep ball and Campbell threw exactly one that looked good: the TD to Moss. That score was set up by a long catch and run by Cooley. Other than that, the passing game couldn't do very much. Of course, Betts was just insane. He could have had 200 yards if the coach's would commit to the run, but they insisted on all those bizarre deep balls. (My favorite was the one to Lloyd where he beat his man but then couldn't find the ball and it just bounced harmlessly behind him) FOMBC might be the only legimate explanation. Were the saints on the cover of SI this week?

I firmly believe that after Eli throws a pick, the camera should just stay on him for the next 3 minutes to watch him pout. His sad cranky act after the pick six to Cole just made me happy, cause he was making the exact same face he made when San Diego drafted him and he had to hold up that Chargers jersey. Ha.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:15pm

Aaron, I'm desperately hoping you mention the Tennessee defense in the DVOA ratings this week. The fact that they've turned around from being god-awful last year to being likely above-average this year is huge, and still, people are crediting Young.

I love Jeremy Shockey in a train wreck sorta way. After Eli threw that wacky pick off Patterson’s helmet, Shockey barrels over some Eagle after the play and gets a personal foul penalty. Does anybody else find it hilarious that Tom Coughlin is such a disciplinarian yet his team must lead the league in really dumb penalties.

Actually, that was a pretty crap penalty on Shockey, I thought - Shockey was shoved into the pile by a Philly defender (while the play was still going on, so there's no foul play there).

I still think that Philly should spend the entire rest of the season having Brian Dawkins teach the rest of the Eagles defense to tackle. He's now up to 6 forced fumbles on the year, with 28 in his career. 28! That's just freaking unreal.

As far as I can tell, there isn't a safety in the league close to those numbers. There isn't a safety in the league (with a few years' experience) on pace for those numbers (Sean Taylor is the closest).

And it's not like Dawkins is missing tackles to get those, either.

by Tom Gisriel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:16pm

No comments at all on the Ravens Browns game?

Come on guys. The Ravens clinched a playoff spot with that game. Boller relieving McNair is worth a comment.

by EnglishBob (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:17pm

Re 12
Is it time the Redskins traded Portis for a Corner back and started Betts? Only joking but.............

by irishfan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:17pm

Is Ned Macey implying that Marc Bulger is overhyped while Eli Manning is underhyped.

Marc Bulger is perhaps the most underhyped player in the league.

I am perplexed

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:18pm

At the risk of being way too tedious, I'll say it again; the first round of the 2005 draft is going to very likely haunt the Vikings for some time. If they had drafted Demarcus Ware and then some other wr (Matt Jones?), instead of Troy Williamson and then Erasmus James, they probably would looking at least a 9-7, maybe even 10-6 season. It is possible that James will still turn out to have a decent career, but Williamson is about eight quarters and a training camp away from being a complete, certified, first round bust.

They won't bring Smoot back; there just is no reason to pay a guy what his contract calls for, for that level of performance, and the cap hit for cutting him isn't too bad. Whatever they do in the defensive backfield, however, trying to play pass defense in the NFL without a credible edge pass rusher is a pretty futile task, and the Vikings have not had a truly good edge pass rusher since the prime of Chris Doleman, at least 15 years ago.

The much, much, larger issue, of course, is the fact that they have no offensive playmakers who can keep a defense from putting eight or even nine guys in the box. In retrospect, it should have been obvious to me that Drunken Koren Robinson's header off the wagon doomed any chance of achieving mediocrity on offense, but I guess I still had hope that Troy Williamson and Co. could achieve replacement-level status.

Well, I didn't expect the Vikings to be able to beat the Jets, given that the AFC competition is just on another level this year, but I had hopes for a competitive contest. A lot will be learned regarding Childress as coach on Thursday in Lambeau. If the guys continue to play hard, it will mean a lot, even if they lose. If they lay down against Favre, and then versus Bulger in week 17, that will be a very, very, bad sign.

So much depends on qb performance in the future, meaning non-Brad Johnson performance, I hope Childress doesn't stick with The Game Manager for the last two games, which would seem to me a complete waste of time.

by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:20pm

"I’d like to see a few teams go back to the Bradshaw style of throwing deep a ton and not worrying so much about interceptions."

Russ, meet Rex. Get ready to start worrying about interceptions. Of course, Rex looked good yesterday, actually.

How worried should I be about the defense, though? They've given up a ton of points the last two weeks. They've lost both starting DTs for the season. They are signing guys off the street to come in and play safety. I know. 12-2, right? Yep. 12-2. Just keep telling yourself that. I'm starting to feel nauseous.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:20pm

Also, at what point do people start saying, "All Chris Weinke does is lose games. He's a loser."

I want for a talking head or a sports writer to make this statement.

by Goathead (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:21pm

Re: DVOA and the eagles... OK, but the Giants performance is totally out of what with their performance the last 6 weeks. But, I'm willing to accept a one word excuse: "Coughlin"

by James C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:29pm

I really enjoy the work produced by the outsiders and love coming to this website. One of the few things that reallys bugs me is how quickly a young quarterback with a poor supporting cast can get binned, seemingly permanently. Young QBs that are going to play well are easy to spot, they are the ones surrounded by good players on offense and a good defense which keeps the pressure off them. Similarly failing young QBs almost always have poor supporting casts. If you just applied the supporting cast rule to all QBs I suspect you would see the same thing, young or not with few exceptions. If the outsiders are supposed to debunk popularly held 'truths' why does this one remain untouched?

I mainly refer to Alex Smith. Yes he was bad last year, but he was playing on a team that was historically bad in terms of its talent level before they all got injured. There isn't a quarterback in the league who could have played well with that team yet he still gets binned because of it. Piling on a 'bust' after one year is behaviour reminiscent of a talking head.

by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:29pm

I thought both penalties on the Eagles were good calls. You can't say the ball was uncatchable when the PI call is based on the fact Sheppard threw up an armbar for 10 entire yards. Perhaps the ball would've been caught had the progress of the receiver not been impeded. The hold on Considine was CLEARLY a penalty.

Re: NY media pressures and Eli... the media isn't nearly as problematic as a sizable portion of idiotic Giants fans. Eli can't win with them. The defense blows two 4th quarter leads? Blame Eli. The defensive and offensive lines get dominated by the Eagles? Blame Eli.

I'm torn between wanting the Giants to actually make the playoffs and having to play a team that's not unbeatable (NO, DAL, SEA) or tanking to ensure Coughlin is fired. My hatred for the coaching staff is so great that I'm probably leaning towards the latter.

The only good result from this week is I won't have to hear how great Phillip Rivers is. Add me to the list of Giants fans that thought Sean Payton would never amount to anything.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:33pm

Russ, meet Rex. Get ready to start worrying about interceptions. Of course, Rex looked good yesterday, actually.

Of course he did. And last week, too. And he'll look good next week. And probably the week after that, though he probably won't be playing.

STL, pass defense: 20.1%, rank 29
TB, pass defense: 16.1%, rank 28
DET, pass defense: 29.9%, rank 31
GB, pass defense: 2.7%, rank 17

This is not the return of Good Rex. This is the return of "Chicago plays crappy secondaries who can't capitalize on a mistake-prone quarterback's bad decisions."

by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:33pm

Nothing on Philip Rivers and his 8 of 23, 97 yard, 2 interception game against the 26th best pass defense? (To be fair, the NBC broadcast barely mentioned it.) Was yesterday a fluke, or should Charger fans be worried?

Also, at what point do people start saying, “All Chris Weinke does is lose games. He’s a loser.�

Michael Strahan is the anti-Chris Weinke, apparently. Since 2004, the Giants are 22-10 when he plays, and 2-12 when he doesn't (and one of those wins is against Weinke).

by William T (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:34pm

Like Schatz, I have LT and Hasselbeck on my fantasy team. However, I decided to name my team "Gramattica & Friends" in recognition of Martin G.'s questionably legal on-field group celebrations.

by RobinFiveWords (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:34pm

The Bears need Nathan Vasher back badly. Ricky Manning should not have man-coverage responsibility, and the safeties aren't experienced enough to cover for him. If Vasher isn't healthy enough to play next week, I'd hope the Bears give Devin Hester more snaps at corner in the base defense, because at least Hester has shown he can make the occasional tackle in run support.

The Bears also tend to turn their linebackers loose when they have a big lead late. If you didn't watch the game, you might think the Bears got burned for two long touchdowns despite playing prevent defense, but they actually were playing much more aggressive defense at that point in the game. This is consistent with what they've done all year -- Brian Urlacher blitzed on just about every play of Buffalo's last drive in an early-season blowout win.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:36pm

"another great thing about Neal is that no fullback in the league is a better runner on the fullback give"

'Ware, Aaron, 'ware, lest you be struck down by the awesome wrath of Karney.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:36pm


On behalf of Pat, Andrew, Charles the Philly Homer, Mike T., myself, and all other rational Eagles' fans I hereby formally request the IP ban of EagleWingDude before the idiot brings the FOMBC our way.

Thank you,

by karl (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:38pm

that's all i get on the 'fins? aren't you guys supposed to follow the afc east? no mention of joey harrington's ineptitude, chris chambers' gem of a goose egg, mike mularkey's beautiful play-calling? ZACH THOMAS HAD 21 TACKLES FOR CHRISSAKES!!!

whatever i'll do my own here. the dolphins offense looked horrendous, again. receivers weren't getting open, numerous dropped balls; the most conservative and non-sensical play-calling i've ever seen by any team at any level past high school; joey harrington insisting on throwing it to the outlet for 3 yards on every 3rd and long; our secondary simply quit - andre goodman got tooled by lee evans on a td play. evans, by the way, looks to be a FANTASTIC receiver - he's making losman look good, although losman didn't do a bad job at all today.

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:39pm

The FOMBC is smart enough to realize that EagleWingDude is obviously a Cowboys fan making a poorly disguised attempt to jix the Eagles.

by Zack (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:40pm

Pacman is a top 5 cornerback in the NFL...tell me how i'm wrong...

by FOMBC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:43pm

I resent your attempts to anthropomorphize me!

by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:44pm

(weekly feature)


Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live.

by navin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:45pm

Re: 14,
Ugh, I meant Michael Carter instead of Tim McDonald. Maybe McDonald picked one off against the Redskins as well, but Carter had the play I described above.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:53pm

I don't know the nature of John Tait's injury, but if the Bears have a playoff game with St. Clair at tackle, losing to any of the wild card teams is a decent possibility.

Then again, having St. Clair providing pass protection may mean Griese gets on the field fairly soon. Who is third on the Bear's depth chart?

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:53pm

32: I'll sign up for that, as well, because if the Eagles run the table, the Saints will have a better shot at the #2 seed.

by RecoveringPackerFan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 1:56pm

The Dhani Jones late hit on Tiki was obvious. He was a few steps out of bounds AND almost stopped before Jones picked him up and slammed him down. Jones could probably have gotten away with a shove if he really didn't know he was out of bounds, but the throw was stupid.

by JJcruiser (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:00pm

I thought Deion and Faulk did a great job, actually. Deion said something stupid about how great Vick was, but other than that, they were insightful and giving real analysis, saying stuff like what kind of routes were being run and what cover the DBs were playing, etc. Most analysts never say stuff like that -- they make stupid comments that are gauged at the lowest common denominator of fan -- stuff like "they need to stop the run if they want to win" and "Favre is really having fun out there!"

Gimme Faulk and Sanders any day over that.

Regarding EPC on Jones v. Barber: That is a GREAT topic. I've wondered since preseason why Barber isn't the starter over Jones. There must be SOME reason. Parcells knows more about football than I do. But I can't see it from watching the games.

by Eorr (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:03pm

Re: 14

The Redskins played well but to say that the TD pass to Moss looked just 'good' is ridiculous. It is like calling a supermode l average.

I think Jason Campbell's throws may also be the most aesthetically pleasing spirals I have ever seen. They are what a throw is supposed to look like. how accurate they are is another question but damn they look good.

I think I have been spoiled by the wounded ducks that have flooded the league and still been successful, like Warner.

by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:04pm

I could have sworn Elway threw that touchdown to Javon Walker, not Cutler. Running across your body, plant, and chuck the ball 64-65 yards in the air? That's just ridiculous. What a thing of beauty.

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:10pm

BTW, I read the AP story on the Ten-Jax game, and it was weird, because they first referred to him as Adam "Pacman" Jones, but after that just called him Adam Jones. I guess I skimmed past the first mention, because then I was wondering "Adam Jones? Why does that name sound so unfamiliar?"

And the poorly timed story of the week was in Sunday's Star-Ledger, about how R.W. McQuarters might be the best player in the Giants secondary (granted, the only source the reporter cited was Antonio Pierce)

by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:10pm

RE: 27

I agree, Pat, but there is more to it. Actually, I'm starting to think there never was a Good Rex, just a Less Bad Rex who benefited from optimum case scenarios (e.g., suffocating defense, weak opponents, good luck on fumbles and kick returns).

The STL game last week was the worst thing that could have happened to the Bears, namely Rex played just well enough to justify Lovie sticking with him. If he had played great, then, hey, no worries. If he had played terribly, then the TB game would have been week 2 of the Brian Griese Era. Instead he played OK against a bad defense.

I didn't see anything in the STL game that made me think Rex would win in the play-offs, but he did look better against TB than he did against STL. In FO parlance I would classify his individual performance as a "stomp", which is what he needs to be doing, whupping bad defenses, then he has a shot against the tougher opponents that are coming in the post-season.

by JasonK (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:11pm

Some thoughts on NYG-PHI:

The Eagles' offense does nothing better than take advantage of slow or undisciplined linebackers. The Giants starters at OLB yesterday were Carlos Emmons and Brandon Short. Whenever there was any kind of fake in the backfield, the Giants' LBs' response was to stand absolutely still until they knew who had the ball (i.e., they watched the ballcarrier run right by them).

The Eagles made some very good adjustments in the way they attacked the Giants' OL. The big gains on Tiki's cutbacks disappeared around halftime. Also, they seem to have finally figured out how to respond to the Giants' no-huddle look-- bring pressure from the side where Tiki isn't.

I hate Brian Dawkins. It started with the dirty hit that ended Ike Hilliard's season a number of years ago, and the many seasons of consistent greatness have only magnified this hatred.

by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:12pm

Love the subject for the EPC. As enamored as I am of Barber Three, and dying to see what he could do as the main guy in the 2006 offense, I also have to wonder how much he's benefiting from doing most of his work against tired defenders.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:12pm

#44: Ditto. My jaw dropped when Cutler threw that ball. Whether or not he can develop the decision making skills of a good QB is still another thing, but holy cow, does he have an arm.

by Mr Shush (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:14pm

"I know now why the Texans never have Carr throw long."

In slight mitigation, and without denying that Carr was dreadful yesterday, his best pass of the day was a perfectly thrown deep ball which went about 45 yards through the air for Andre Johnson. Johnson had beaten his man, but lost the ball in the air and broke off his route. If he'd kept running, the ball would have hit him in stride and he might well have taken it in for a touchdown. Of course, the game was long since over and the guy Johnson beat was probably a practice squadder, but the throw was a nice one.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:15pm

8: QB is lower on the priority than WRs and Pass Rushers. If Tarvaris Jackson has to start opening day 2007, so be it, if he's got competent WRs to throw to.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:16pm

JJCrusier, just a guess on my part, but perhaps Parcells thinks Barber would get too worn down if he was getting Jones' time, and he wants to use Barber more later in the game, preferably when the Cowboys have the lead.

To those of us who watch University of Minnesota football, THAT was vintage Barber. Maroney was always much flashier and more of a game-breaker, but Barber was just a flat-out tough runner. I remember the bowl game they against Alabama two years ago, and Barber and Co. just lined up and repeatedly punched what was touted as the SEC's best run defense in the mouth, in a real
bludgeoning. Barber was just outstanding, and watching him on Saturday reminded me of that game.

by Just Another Falcon Fan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:22pm

Re: 9, 32, 34.

I say give EagleWingDude the freedom to post as much as he wants for the next two weeks. In fact, if he doesn't post frequently enough, post#9 should be copied and pasted as needed in all threads.

Re: 36

At least you're not a heroic penguin!

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:24pm

In FO parlance I would classify his individual performance as a “stomp�, which is what he needs to be doing, whupping bad defenses, then he has a shot against the tougher opponents that are coming in the post-season.

If he had ever played well against a pass defense that's decently above-average, I'd agree with you. But right now he just looks like he's great against bad pass defenses, and awful against good pass defenses.

Then again, what's funny is that there's really only one team solidly in the NFC playoff picture with a decent pass defense: Philadelphia. And as much of a Philly fan as I am, I still would doubt that Chicago would lose to Philly. Hell, if nothing else, I think Chicago could win by replacing Grossman with an old single-wing formation and just running every down.

But Chicago is in deep, deep trouble when they get to the Super Bowl.

by Ryan Harris (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:25pm

Mike Vick has good games based on his herpes flareups?? Wow!

Im not sure if I should congratulate your journalism or banish you to hell. Non the less, Wow!

I honestly would pay $10 000 to see Micheals and Madden do a Falcons game and discuss this possibility.

Madden: "Er, Er the thing with the Herpes is that when your Herpes are good, you play good ok, er but when the herpes are bad, you play bad, cause herpes are bad. Er, Er great football players usually dont have Herpes"

Micheals: "Vick was questionable tonight with a Herpe, but has decided to play"

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:28pm

52: Don't you mean the serious SEC defense?

by MdM (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:29pm

No football comment but--Aaron, I like you as a person!

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:29pm

#55: Actually, considering the trend is to quote the injured body part rather than the injury...

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:31pm

Yes, quarterbacking is a priority for the Vikings, but for better or for worse, they have cast their lot with Tavaris Jackson, and nobody has much of an idea of whether he can be a decent NFL qb.

Now, assuming the Vikings draft somewhere in the middle of the pack, and Troy Smith is available, I think the Vikings should draft him, unless he measures out two inches shorter than Brees or something. Getting high quality qb prospects should only be passed on under special circumstances, with great reluctance, like if the offensive line just sucks, or you already have a young John Elway. The position is just too critical to ignore a top-flight prospect, and the people who denigrate Smith's potential are just wrong, assuming Smith isn't 5' 9 1/2".

The tough thing is that it isn't going to be easy for the Vikings to attract a high quality free agent wr, given the unsettled nature of the qb position.

by kibbles (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:35pm

Up 40-7, they were unable to burn the clock, so they kneeled on fourth down, causing a turnover on downs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that either.
It's not that uncommon. Brees just did it last week to the Cowboys (you know, in the game where he threw for about fifty billion yards in the first three quarters and spent the entire fourth quarter handing off). New Orleans ran on every down, and then when they got inside Dallas's 10 yard line anyway, Brees just took a knee four straight times. The fourth kneel turned the ball over on downs, at which point Romo trotted out and kneeled twice more to kill the rest of the clock- meaning that the New Orleans/Dallas game effectively ended on six consecutive kneel-downs.

by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:36pm

Not that it even matters any more, but I don't think the Gabriel was cut because he didn't take to the Patriot way theory is any more credible than that totally inane notion that he got cut for fumbling the ball. Once! For all we know, BB decided to put a cap on players with dreadlocks. I just don't think he would have been as charitable in his comments about the guy going out the door if attitude had been the problem.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:37pm

Re: 53

Why in the world would anyone defend a jackass like that?!?

*looks at Philly's remaining schedule*

JAFF, you tricky sonofa...

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:38pm

Pat, neither the Cowboys or Saints have a good pass defense, but I think they are good enough to beat the Bears now, given the Bears' injuries, even assuming that Tank Johnson doesn't get gunned down in the next couple of weeks.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:38pm

Will Allen, I also don't know if there are going to be high quality free agent WRs this off-season. I haven't seen any stand-out names. I might be satisfied with some "just above competent" WR signings, though.

by ABW (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:41pm

Re: 61, Gabriel

I really think that not playing special teams had a lot to do with it.

by Goathead (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:44pm

I thought the Giants were choking, but it turned out it was just Coughlin.

by ckj414 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:46pm

Re: why Eli didn't want to play for San Diego...

The story I recall is that a friend of the Manning family worked for the Chargers at the time, and it was under his recommendation that Eli refuse to play for the Chargers. I'd wager that everyone involved feels a little differently about it now though...

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:48pm

Unfortunately, Pacifist, I think the Vikings' qb situation is such that they will be forced to overpay in order to attract a free agent wr of any quality at all. It becomes really difficult at that point to make a good decision.

by Bill (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:49pm

Help me out here. The reason you can't advance a muffed punt is because the receiving team has not gained possession. Therefore, how is SD's punt recovery a first down? There was no possession change, and they were short of the line to gain.

by Jonathan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:50pm

#28 - Don't think it's time to start worrying about Rivers just yet; just as it should take consistent winning by a first-year quarterback to establish whether he is good or not, it should take a consistently bad showing to invoke some worrying (and as a Charger fan I'm hoping Seattle's defense is as porous as the city's clouds this Sunday).

Did anyone else see the hold on Merriman in the end zone during the first half? He was blitzing on Green's blind side, and it looked to me like a tight end wrapped an arm around Merriman's neck as he went by, then vice gripped him from behind to prevent the sack/safety.

One last thing: I think LT gets the MVP now. Brees struggled against Washington and with Rivers' poor outing, Tomlinson basically carried the offense. Without the 85-yard touchdown, he still ran for over a 100 yards and a score.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:52pm

Watching the highlights of that Cutler pass reminded my uncle of two plays. One was an Elway play he thought happened in 1985 where Elway was rolling out around his own 40, stopped flat, and nailed the Bronco receiver at the opposing team's 15 yard line.

The other he has video. January, 1994 Lions-Packers. 55 seconds left and Favre nails Sharpe in stride for the TD. He's rolling left at about his own 50 and then throws back across the field to Sharpe who catches it around the goal line while running.

Neither thrown involved the WR stopping or waiting on the throw.

That's some pretty crazy stuff. One can understand a Denver fan being juiced. Ron Wolf said about quarterbacks that you can teach someone to aim a gun but you cannot hit anything if you don't HAVE a gun. Wolf was adamant that the league is too fast paced for a guy to be a consistent winner with a rag arm.

I will be interested to see the Packers/Vikings game if only because I am curious about the adjustments made by the respective coaching staffs.

by Justus (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:54pm

"so they kneeled on fourth down, causing a turnover on downs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that either."

It happened just a week ago in NO-DAL, though I realize Pats homers don't pay attention to most other games.

by Jonathan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:56pm

#69 - The muffed punt (in this case Derrick Ross touching the ball while airborne with his hand) occured on K.C.'s side of the original line of scrimmage, therefore making the ball live. As the referee for the game said, because a member of the receiving team touched it beyond the line of scrimmage, the ball is considered to have already passed through the receiving team's possession and can therefore be recovered by the kicking team.

by Pacifist Viking (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:57pm

At least with the Viking cap room, they could overpay and frontload the deal. That's the hope that's gotten me through 3 or 4 offseasons. Might as well make it another!

by blahblahfalcons (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 2:58pm

Brian Dawkins is a great, great player. And he would cement his place in NFL history as the greatest defender of all time if he takes out T.O.'s knees this weekend. Make it happen, Brian.

by BadgerT1000 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:00pm

What happens to unused cap money?

by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:00pm

Aaron, couldn't you add a dish and the ticket to your house and write off most of it, if not all of it? I figured the Sunday Ticket would be mandatory in your business, if for no other reason for the game tapes and short cuts (I assume you can't get coaching tape from NFL Films or the league, but maybe you can.)

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:00pm

Will Allen, I also don’t know if there are going to be high quality free agent WRs this off-season. I haven’t seen any stand-out names. I might be satisfied with some “just above competent� WR signings, though.

Competing with Philly for Donte Stallworth would be smart. I doubt Philly will let him get to free agency, but it's possible - what with both Brown and Baskett having decent years ('decent' for Baskett meaning 'replacement-level receiver as a rookie'), Stallworth might ask for too much and end up going to free agency.

by hector (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:01pm

76, Go ask Jon-Jon Kraft.

by Ben (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:02pm

Was it just me or did Madden take a shot at Triplett? It was after San Diego ran into the Chiefs' punter.

Also, thank God we are not potatos.

by blahblahfalcons (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:03pm

PV, maybe you guys could make a trade to get Moss back. It's either that or fight for free agent scraps (read: Drew Bennett)

by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:04pm

kevinNYC #26:

Add me to the list of Giants fans that thought Sean Payton would never amount to anything.

Hmmm ... Payton calls the plays for Giants teams that go 12-4 (NFC Champs), 7-9, and 10-6 (Wild Card). He's fired, and the team goes on a 4-12 and 6-10 streak the next two years. It was the same Collins-Barber-Toomey-Shockey-Strahan team in 2002 and in 2003, but they got 5 less points of offense per game and gave up more on defense.

by blahblahfalcons (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:05pm

I guess Lelie's rookie contract ends this year too, so he's on the market if anyone really wants him.

by Jonathan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:06pm

#80 - I think he was trying to correct Triplette before the commercial break, because Triplette first stated the penalty would be assessed at the end of the play, but then came back from the break with the correct call, that if K.C. so chose, they could take the 5 yards before the kick, but still be short of the first down and therefore have to kick again.

I didn't see it as a shot, just an old man correcting a youngster ;)

by beedubyuh (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:08pm

RE: 54

We tend to talk of QBs as falling into two categories: Franchise and Manager. I think we have enough of a body of work for Rex to say that he doesn't fall into either category. The Bears had hopes for him being the former, probably not going to happen. Maybe, someday, he could develop into the latter (Trent Dilfer did it). Time will tell.

A game managing QB is one who lacks the superior skill to carry a team on his shoulders, but makes up for it by executing the game plan, not attempting to do things outside the bounds of his ability and, above all, avoiding mistakes or turnovers. A low-risk, low-reward type who brings success to his team by allowing his teammates to employ their superior talent.

The Bears don't have a lot of talent on the offense. There are some good players, sure, but no one I would call a standout. If there is any method to Lovie's madness (and I'm not saying there is) it may be that he believes a game manager like Griese is not the answer. So what to do?

At his best, Rex is employed as a high-risk, high-reward QB, bombing away again and again with 20-30 yard attempts to WRs. The key word is "attempts", for Rex is probably more important for what he attempts rather than what he actually accomplishes. On the few occasions that the bombs connect, well, Yay! But the incompletes (much more common) actually take some pressure off the running game and TE routes (the real bread and butter of this offense).

As long as he keeps the turnovers down, this works. But because his frequency of success is so small, the mistakes are magnified in importance, too. In a sense he IS a game manager. Just in a very weird way. Rex MUST avoid turnovers, but he doesn't necessarily have to have a high completion percentage or throw for many TDs.

Has anyone ever won a Super Bowl this way? Not to my recollection. What a weird season.

P.S. Single wing aside, I do think Cedric Benson is going to play a large role in any successful championship run. He may even become the defacto starting RB before the Super Bowl (assuming the Bears make it that far).

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:09pm

As the referee for the game said, because a member of the receiving team touched it beyond the line of scrimmage, the ball is considered to have already passed through the receiving team’s possession and can therefore be recovered by the kicking team.

Read the article he linked to. The reason you can't advance a muffed punt is because the punt returner never gained possession of the ball. You can recover the ball, but you can't advance it. The reason the opposing team needs to touch it is because by kicking the ball, you voluntarily give up possession. Touching the ball by the opposing team negates that, but it doesn't make the ball live (and available for advancement) by the punting team.

So it seems strange that the Chargers could gain a first down by recovering a punt that was short of their first down marker. The Chiefs never established possession - they just gave up their right of automatic possession. Since there was no change of possession, the Chargers shouldn't've gotten a first down. It's similar to a fumble on 4th down - if the offense fumbles it, and the other team recovers it and fumbles again, the offense can recover and gain a first down. But if the opposing defense just touches it and never establishes possession, it's a turnover on downs if it's short of the first down marker.

I think that the call on the field was right (by the book) but I think that's probably an inconsistency in the NFL rules.

by Another Aaron (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:09pm

Games I saw:

NE/HOU: NE had a short field most of the day, and a big lead by 2nd quarter. Still, if HOU punts rather than INTs all game, does NE even get 20? Offense thoroughly unspectacular IMO. Perhaps a big possession WR would extend drives? The Raiders had a guy last year who didn't play much and probably could be had for a 5th round pick. What was his name? Oh well, just a thought.

WASH/NO: Final NO drive, screen to R. Bush for 15 or so. Two plays later, same exact short-side screen to R. Bush for about 0. And he stays in bounds. This is coach-of-the-year playcalling? And NO is our #2 seed in the NFC? Yuck. These playoffs are going to suck.

NYG/PHI: Eli not to blame, and there was one sweet long completion to Plaxico. The pass that got the late PI looked uncatchable, and the coverage looked pretty good except for the arm bar. How have NY & PHI swapped running games? Much as I hate to say it, I think the officials were right on in every penalty call (or non-call. Garcia wanted roughing before his INT but it looked clean to me).

KC/SD: Who expected this to be a defensive battle? I loved Marty's fake punt - wish he'd ever done something that creative as KC coach in the 90s. Does anybody else think that the punt block rule needs to be tweaked? KC effectively penalized for making a great play. Seems bogus to call that sequence a change of possession - maybe if SD recovers far enough downfield to make the 1st down then they should be able to keep the ball. Still, no excuse for giving LT 85 yds on the next play. And why so many FGs and such low scores in AFC West divisional games (Herm, Marty, Shanny - I'm looking at you)? These are original AFL teams. Can we please matriculate the ball down the field?

by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:11pm

Fassel took the play-calling duties away from Payton after the 17-3 loss to the Eagles in Week 8 in 2002; immediately after, the scoring offense improved. I'm not saying it was the right decision, but Payton can't be given much credit for that year.

by calig23 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:12pm

Every time that Dexter Wynn fields a punt or kickoff for the Texans, I want the announcers to call him “The Toy Cannon.�

Kudos, sir. Kudos.

That was the first time Philly has gone for a two-point conversion this year? Are they the last team in the NFL to do so?

I'm fairly certain that the Steelers haven't attempted a two pointer this year, but I could be incorrect.

by Jonathan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:18pm

#86 - I can't figure out how to link the article on here, but here's the URL http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20061218/news_1s18chiefs.html

Triplette explains why he called it that way. Says nothing about San Diego advancing the ball, merely that no matter what, beyond the line of scrimmage, if a member of the receiving team touches the ball, it's live.

by Jonathan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:20pm

Whoops, guess i figured out the linking dealio, lol

by BlueStarDude (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:24pm

RE: "It happened just a week ago in NO-DAL, though I realize Pats homers don’t pay attention to most other games."

In all fairness, east coast viewers who have to work in the morning don't often stay up to watch the end of night game blow outs.

by stag hunter (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:24pm

RE: 14

Tim McDonald did not sign with the niners until 1993; in 1991 he was a Cardinal. After looking it up, the game I was referring to was played in 1994 and the Redskins QB was Frerotte. I knew 1991 could not be right because I was only 6 then and don't remember much football from that age, but the McDonald INT was one of my most distinct early football memories

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:27pm

I'm not sure this is the best week to be throwing props in the directions of the Titans' D--200 yards rushing on 5.1 YPC, 53% 3rd down conversion pct. allowed, 83 plays, only 2 punts on 12 drives. If not for David Garrard giving the game away, we're writing about how bad the Titans looked in getting beat like 26-3.

This isn't too surprising because the Jags have a good rush offense and the Titans have a bad rush defense. And the Titans' rush D is actually worse than it was last year. Except for 10+ and runs at Right Tackle, ALL of the rush stats have gotten worse, many significantly so; ALY have gone from 3.92 to 4.50 and runs at Left Tackle have gone from Not A Misprint 2.25 ALY to 4.52, to name just two. Thus, the improvement has come entirely from the pass defense.

Showing just how the pass defense has improved is difficult to do. The problems with the front 4 you might suspect from the rush stats are borne out by ASR: powered largely by Vanden Bosch, the Titans finished a respectable 11th last year with 41 sacks and 7.4% ASR. This year, though, the Titans rank 30th with 4.9% ASR and a mere 15 QB takedowns (not including the 4 on Garrard this week in 47 pass plays). Looking at the individual breakdowns, though, the Titans' pass D has about as dramatically as the D has gotten worse: from 27.5% (30th) v. #1 WRs, 41.5% (32nd) v. #2 WRs, -9.0% (11th) v. Other WR, 11.4% (24th) v. TEs, and 42.0% (32nd) v. RBs last year to -7.6% (11th) v. #1 WRs, -22.7% (5th) v. #2 WRs, 36.9% (30th) v. Other WRs, -2.0% (17th) v. TEs, and -9.9% (13th) v. RBs. This is really hard to figure out without knowing exactly who played what, where (I watch all the games every week, but I don't keep the stats, and to really see coverages you'd need the coveted all-22 footage), but I have some suspicions:

(i) Chris Hope was signed in free agency to start at S and replaced Tank Wililams. Williams was coming back from an ACL injury and wasn't very good. Hope has been much better, both in run support (see decline in 10+) and in coverage.
(ii) David Thornton was signed in free agency to play OLB, forcing OLB Peter Sirmon to MLB. Sirmon was also coming back from an ACL injury and struggled playing in space. At MLB, he's a definite upgrade in speed over last year's starter Brad Kassell.
(iii) Pacman Jones flipped sides from Hope's side to Lamont Thompson's side. This happened after Week 2 or 3. In Week 2, Rivers lit up the Titans to the tune of 25/35, 235 (Martyball, remember) and didn't throw a single pass towards Pacman Jones, feasting wholly on Hill and Thompson. Hill has still struggled in coverage, but hasn't been exposed nearly as badly. Rookie 7th round pick Cortland Finnegan has also looked not that bad-I suspect he and Hill have been combined mediocre and that part of the #1/2 WR/Other WR disparity comes from Hill/Finnegan and throwing to whichever has less safety help.

Anyway, that's my take on the Titans' improved pass D in a nutshell (Filbert, or maybe Brazil, not peanut).

by Kyle (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:28pm

Ugh, it seems every thread I read I find myself angry at something incredibly misleading or false that Andrew said.

Re #82:
Sean Payton had his playcalling privileges revoked by Jim Fassel during the 10-6 wildcard season, as his calls were arresting an offense capable of much more. With the Giants at 3-4 in 2002, and Payton only producing 7 offensive touchdowns in 7 games, and 89 points total in 7 games, Fassel decided enough is enough and that a changed was necessary. The tipping point came in scoring a mere FG in a 10-14 point loss to Philly in October. And Payton played a solid mix of cupcake defenses and quality defenses, so he had plenty opportnity to score more.

After Payton's horrendous playcalling was ditched, the Giants scored 25.6 points per game in their final 9 games, finishing 7-2 and making the playoffs. The NOT-Sean Payton Giants offense then dropped 38 on San Fran in the playoffs, but we all know how that ended.

So yes. No Giants fan imagined Sean Payton having a future in the NFL, because offensive system and play selection nearly torpedoed an entire season until Fassel stepped in and took the reigns. Too bad Coughlin has no concept of accountability, or else he'd hold Jon Hufnagel responsible for reintroducing the Ray Handley offense in the red zone. Draw! Draw! Dive! Misdirection Run! Dive! Passing? Whats that :(

by Bill (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:28pm

90 - I don't disagree that it's a live ball; it just seems to me that by the muff/change of possession rules, it should be a turnover on downs.

From the description, it implies that a team can get a first down on a punt, regardless of field position/distance, without a possession change (unlike a fumble.)

by Jim (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:28pm

So it seems strange that the Chargers could gain a first down by recovering a punt that was short of their first down marker

By punting, the Chargers have deliberately given up possession. That's why the Chiefs don't have to touch the ball at all to get possession (the change of posession happening officially when the ball crosses the LOS). Thus, any fumble/muff/whatever that happens after that point counts as a turnover from the Chiefs to the Chargers and the beginning of a new possession. A new possession always begins with a 1st-and-ten.

by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:32pm

It happened just a week ago in NO-DAL, though I realize Pats homers don’t pay attention to most other games.

(from the FAQ)

On the other hand, all of the writers here are fans first, and it has always been the policy of Football Outsiders to be very upfront about which teams we root for. Here is a list, just in case readers want to go looking for hints of bias:

Bill Barnwell: New York Giants

On a less annoying note, the thing with Sunday Ticket is that it's DirecTV-exclusive -- big ol' trees or simply poor views of the Southern sky can prevent you from getting it even if you want it.

by Not saying (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:33pm

Re: 86 It’s similar to a fumble on 4th down - if the offense fumbles it, and the other team recovers it and fumbles again, the offense can recover and gain a first down. But if the opposing defense just touches it and never establishes possession, it’s a turnover on downs if it’s short of the first down marker.

Are you sure that's true? I remember having an argument with some people in an open-game discussion a couple weeks back, and they all claimed that wasn't true. I remember arguing that the way you said it is how it should be, and they disagreed with that, too.

by MRH (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:37pm

Re #70 Did anyone else see the hold on Merriman in the end zone during the first half? He was blitzing on Green’s blind side, and it looked to me like a tight end wrapped an arm around Merriman’s neck as he went by, then vice gripped him from behind to prevent the sack/safety.

I saw it. But the play had been blown dead for a false start by the Chiefs, so the hold didn't get flagged (it would have resulted in a safety for off holding in the end zone, I think, if the play had been live).

by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:40pm

90 - I don’t disagree that it’s a live ball; it just seems to me that by the muff/change of possession rules, it should be a turnover on downs.

There's a specific provision in the rulebook for this situation - 9-1-6-Note.

Note: When the kickers recover a legal kick from scrimmage after it has first been touched by the receiving team beyond the line, it is first-and-10 for A or if it is recovered by the kickers in the receiver’s end zone, it is a touchdown for the kickers. See 7-1-1-c-d and 9-1-4-Exc.

by NewsToTom (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:41pm

Re #89/The Toy Cannon
Sorry, "Dexter" isn't close enough to "Jimmy" for it to work for me.

My favorite moment of this really dreadful game came in the second half, when they ran a promo for the Giants/Eagles game. Y'know, the one that was going on at the same time, on the same network. I guess it was a note to Sunday Ticket subscribers that we should go ahead and watch the Jints-Iggles instead, but I thought it was pretty amazing. On the actual game itself, STL's gameplan reminds me an awful lot of what San Diego did against the Raiders in Week 1-run the ball down their throats, try not to pass that much, and don't lose the game on offense. Jackson didn't seem to be that effective running up the middle, but seemed to do much better when he ran outside. Bulger didn't have a great game, in part because the Raiders just blitzed the Rams to death, but he was effective when he needed to be. And, gado-freakin'-linium, Oakland's offense is just terrible. Brooks isn't suited for a short pass offense like Shoop's because he can't throw short accurately. Not that Walter's much better, as the 2 INTs in 2 drives showed (though only 1 of them was due to a particularly bad throw).

by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:43pm

It’s similar to a fumble on 4th down - if the offense fumbles it, and the other team recovers it and fumbles again, the offense can recover and gain a first down. But if the opposing defense just touches it and never establishes possession, it’s a turnover on downs if it’s short of the first down marker.

Are you sure that’s true? I remember having an argument with some people in an open-game discussion a couple weeks back, and they all claimed that wasn’t true. I remember arguing that the way you said it is how it should be, and they disagreed with that, too.

It's true. Merely "touching" a loose ball, provided that it's not on a kick, does not create a new possession.

by Andy (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 3:56pm
by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:01pm

#82... The offense was solid in 2000 (#10 according to this site) and poor in 2001 (#19). After week 8 in 2002, Payton had his play calling duties stripped from him by Fassel after the team averaged 12.7 points per game to that point.

From that point on, the team averaged 25.6 points per game. Toomer and Barber had careers seasons, Shockey was 1st team All-Pro, and Kerry Collins(!) was NFC Player of the Month for December and was the third ranked QB according to this website. They also scored 38 points in a playoff loss.

Thinking his reduced role would hurt his future NFL coaching prospects, Payton asked and was allowed to leave to join the Cowboys. Using wins and losses as the sole basis of judging Sean Payton's ability as an assistant coach is rather pointless. In 2003, Tiki Barber fumbled 8,000 times and the team was ravaged by injuries. Would Sean Payton have done a better job with Jesse Palmer than Jim Fassel? What does 2004 (under Coughlin) have to do with anything?

by Jonathan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:01pm

Appreciate the fumble explanations, it's helped cleared things for me as well.

#100 - the hold I was referring to was on a live play, because Green completed the pass to either Kennison or Gonzalez for a first down, despite the obvious hold.

by kevinNYC (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:02pm

Oops... didn't see your post Kyle.

by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:04pm

re: 18, 37
Geez Tom, you should have realized by now that no one on this site gives a damn about the Ravens. I mean, if you were a football analyst, why would you spend time watching the second best team in the NFL play when you can watch games like Lions/Packers, or Rams/Raiders.

by Marko (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:10pm

"Off to James Brown in New York… (We watch the highlight of Cedric Houston run one in against the Vikings) “And here … we have … Brad Johnson handing off to Travis Taylor for the touchdown.� Come on — how hard is it to know it’s Cedric Houston?"

And presumably, it wasn't Brad Johnson handing off.

"That was the first time Philly has gone for a two-point conversion this year? Are they the last team in the NFL to do so?"

The Bears have not attempted a two-point conversion this year. I don't know if there are any other teams that haven't gone for two this year.

"I don’t know the nature of John Tait’s injury, but if the Bears have a playoff game with St. Clair at tackle, losing to any of the wild card teams is a decent possibility."

Tait is fine. He sprained his ankle in Monday's game in St. Louis and sat out a few plays before returning and finishing the game. The Bears held him out yesterday as a precaution, feeling that there was no need to push it. Lovie Smith said he would have played if it were a playoff game. I'm sure that Nathan Vasher and Todd Johnson also would have played if necessary, but they were held out to give them more time to recover from their injuries.

Re: The blocked punt in KC-San Diego: I don't understand all the confusion over the play. It seems pretty straightforward. It's just like the infamous Leon Lett gaffe (version 2.0) on the blocked field goal vs. Miami in that Thanksgiving game years ago. The only difference is that in last night's game, it was a punt, not a field goal. If you're on the non-kicking team, and the kick is blocked but goes past the line of scrimmage, don't try to pick up the ball.

by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:11pm

#108: Ya know, watching Baltimore beat up Cleveland isn't the most exciting thing ever if you're not a fan of Baltimore. Maybe that has something to do with it.

I'm not sure it matters; if Cleveland beats Baltimore I bet we'd be reading about it in AGS. Does it really, truly matter that the contributors aren't putting in a 5-sentence blurb about a game that went pretty much as planned save McNair going out?

by David (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:15pm

In case you're wondering why nobody seemed to be watching the Ravens, have a look at the coverage area.


That's most of Ohio, half of Delaware, and half of Maryland. If you don't live there (and to my knowledge, none of the Outsiders do), then that game is Sunday Ticket or nothing.

by Sophandros (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:16pm

92: I work in the Eastern Time Zone, and I stayed up to watch the end of that blowout game. OK, so I wasn't able to sleep until much later and was dragging for half the week, but still...

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:37pm

Re: 111

Thanks, David. I was going to make some snide sarcastic remark about my amazement that illiterate people can still use a written medium like the internet ("Games are chosen based on our own personal viewing preferences, and are going to reflect the teams we support and the cities where we live."), but your coverage map works much better.

by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:44pm

Re 37: Be that as it may, the first point still holds- that's an absurdly long sequence on the Patriots, particularly considering the quality (or lack thereof) of the contest in question. It's either a website dedicated to the NFL as a whole or it's a Patriots fan club.

I thought Minnesota started the game with an excellent defensive gameplan. They responded to the Jets spread attack by pressing the receivers and blitzing hard up the gut, forcing Pennington to make quick reads under duress. That was what caused the first fumble, as Pennington's initial read was covered and he never had time to look at a second read. The defense forced Pennington to make a number of difficult throws early on, but once he made those throws, Minnesota just totally backed off. At that point, they got completely picked apart. I think they would have been much better served by keeping the pressure on and accepting that they would get beaten sometimes but would probably force another turnover or two.

I agree with whoever thinks Smoot should be cut. I wasn't sure that Antoine Winfield was even playing, considering how few times his name came up. The Jets just went after Smoot over and over, and Minnesota never had any answer for it.

by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:49pm

I'm well aware of the fact that there aren't that many Ravens fans out there (due to the fact that its a new franchise being plunked down in between Philly and Washington, so there's not a lot of room for growth), and its none of my business who roots for which team at FO. I was just pointing out to Tom that if you want to have any sort of discussion about the Ravens on a message board, FO is a bad place to do it, people generally don't know much about the team or have much to say about it. Certainly if you want to talk about any of the NFC east teams, or the Patriots and Colts you'll find many interesting and thoughtful opinions here, but hardly any regarding the Ravens, simply because people don't watch them (as evidenced in audibles).

by Andrew (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:51pm

kevinNYC and Kyle:

The teams the Giants played in the 2nd half of 2002 had nothing in the way of defense except the Eagles. NFC South, Redskins twice, Cowboys all had 313 or more points hung on them for the season (average was 338 points), same as the ones in the start of the season. So I don't think either half of the schedule was anything great to work against.

I see your point about Payton not producing in the first half. I'd forgotten he'd been relieved of play-calling duties. Still, he was an offensive coach when the team regenerated itself in the 2nd half. Surely he had some hand in that.

by MRH (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 4:55pm

Did anyone else notice that Brett Basanez had 11 pass attempts for the Carolina Panthers yesterday? Does anyone know anything about him beyond rookie, Northwestern?

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 5:01pm

Not that it matters, but something looks off on that map, because the MIA-BUF area doesn't seem to include Buffalo. Unless it didn't sell out, which I find hard to believe.

by Travis (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 5:04pm

Re: 118

Buffalo was blacked out for the third straight home game. They drew 70,000, but the stadium seats 74,000.

by Carlos (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 5:16pm

Is it time the Redskins traded Portis for a Corner back and started Betts?

In my dreams! It's so great to see a Skins running back who can actually break a tackle!! Portis gets ankle tackled more than anyone I've ever seen.

I got to watch Redskins-Saints and I’m still confused as to how the Redskins won. The redskins just kept chucking the deep ball and Campbell threw exactly one that looked good: the TD to Moss.

I'm confused as to how the Skins won only by 6. They absolutely dominated the Saints, but continued their wretched play in the red zone. By the way, as you later wrote yourself, Campbell threw a perfectly catchable pass to Lloyd... except that Lloyd someone never saw the ball.

I loved the offense of pound, pound, pound and then throw medium and long passes. That doesn't mean I liked Saunders play calling -- he still seems to outsmart himself way to often. If they haven't stopped Betts, then keep handing him the ball!

I hate what the "west coast offense" has done to football... which has now been taken to the absurd extreme of all of these WR screens you see. Yech.

by Devin McCullen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 5:22pm

Really? Buffalo's not selling out, against a division opponent? I'm feeling a little more sympathy for Ralph Wilson's complaining that I did before.

by Israel (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 5:26pm

#16 writes "In fact, I think Cowher did it against the patriots during Ben’s rookie season when they snapped the Pat’s win streak.

I think it was against the Eagles, the following week.

by Sean (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 5:32pm

Re 121: It's one of the biggest stadiums in the league situated in one of the smallest markets. It happens, especially when the team has been down for a while, as they have been.

I do think it would probably be better to move them up the road to Toronto. They'd still be available for Western New York fans, but they'd be able to fill their stadium more consistently.

by Jim Maron (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 5:35pm

Will Allen and Pacifist Viking -

Aren't you guys excited about Tavaris Jackson? The kid looks great. He has a very strong and accurate arm combined with a quick release. He can obviously run very well - not just fast, he's elusive. But more importantly the guy just has it.

I read an article pre-draft by Phil Simms that said the exact thing I'm saying. Simms was blown away watching this kid.

The Vikings don't need a QB - they have him now. The offence looks immediately faster when he comes in. There were at least 3 plays where Johnson would have been sacked or worse that Jackson turned into good plays, including the TD by Moore (btw...why on earth does this guy not get 10-15 touches a game?).

He seems to throw into some tight coverage at times, but that comes with the territory no matter how good a player you are as a rookie.

Will Allen - I think you are dead on about the pass rush being the chief problem not the db's. The Viking pass rush has become pitiful. If they don't send 7 men they don't get near the QB. They need a rush end desperately. But that's easier said than done. I think projecting a college rush end is a pretty tricky business. What did Udeze have at USC in his last year, 19 sacks? This year 0.

by Dan (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 5:39pm

When are those coverage maps updated during the week prior to the games? Or don't they post until the actual telecast?

by Jeff (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 5:45pm

RE: 54 & 85
In regards to Rex Grossman, his improved play the last couple of weeks stems a great deal from simply taking what the defense gives him. I was at the game yesterday and Grossman on many pass attemps was very content to read the D if nothing was there
throw to the check down reciever and happily take a 3 yard gain. Where Grossman started to err was in thinking he could make a living throwing into tight coverage 30 yards down field. He had sucess doing that earlier in the year
and it caused him to develop bad habits.
Starting with the Arizona game, he started to simply fling the ball wily nily all over the place.
The assumption that Rex suceeds only against " bad " pass defenses is a little disingenuous. It is just as possible that Rex makes average and good pass defenses look better simply because he got deep ball happy. If Rex just takes what defenses give him I believe he can be sucessful regardless of how "good" or "bad" the pass defense is.

by David (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 5:45pm

They're updated in the week before the games, as the person gets new information - this week's latest changes were made on Friday (said changes included a Bills blackout, in fact). It's a fan-made project, so he only gets listings once they're propagated to sites like TitanTV, Yahoo, etc.

by joel in providence (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 5:48pm

re: buffalo...how much of a punishment is it to have a local blackout? the team still gets its cut of tv revenues. yeah, i suppose local interest in the team could dwindle, but you can always sell the team's rights to another city and make more money than god.
the more you read about the biz of the NFL, the more you realize it's all about being lucky enough to get in the ownership cartel. and then limiting how many others can get in once you're a member yourself. crazy.

by joel in providence (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 5:50pm

gribblenation is doing god's work with that little site...

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 6:07pm

The assumption that Rex suceeds only against � bad � pass defenses is a little disingenuous. It is just as possible that Rex makes average and good pass defenses look better simply because he got deep ball happy. If Rex just takes what defenses give him I believe he can be sucessful regardless of how “good� or “bad� the pass defense is.

No way. When I say "good" and "bad" pass defenses, I'm talking about DVOA, and there, the contribution of Chicago's offensive skill this late in the year is minimal. St. Louis, Detroit, and Tampa Bay have looked bad versus almost every competent pass offense they've faced. They're not good pass defenses. This isn't just because Chicago's made them look bad (which they have). It's because they are bad.

You're right that Rex is taking what the defense gives him. That's because right now the opposing defenses are giving him wide open easy passes, and even on the tighter passes aren't even making plays on the ball. I believe we call this a "bad pass defense."

Versus a good pass defense, those easy throws aren't there.

A trained monkey could find holes in the Tampa Bay, Detroit, and St. Louis defense.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 6:09pm

Jim, as long as Brad Johnson is on the field, you can't have Moore getting a lot of touches, because you can't have a running back who can't block on the field much when the qb is a statue. That is where so much criticism of Childress is misplaced. Childress may be legitimately criticized for sticking with Johnson as long as he has, although I think it is often really hard to comment in an informed manner regarding which qb should play without seeing the backups in practice. Once one decides to keep Johnson on the field, however, the universe of playcalling and personnel available to run the plays shrinks a ton.

That's why I critisized Childress for sticking with Johnson; the Vikings are just absurdly easy to prepare for with Johnson taking snaps, and as the season goes on, and more and more film can be reviewed, the job of an opposing defensive coordinator gets easier each week. Whether Jackson will be good or not, nobody knows. I don't think any judgement of these matters is possible on the basis of what really is a handful of snaps. Maybe your assessment is correct, but I wouldn't bet the house on it.

In any case, if they have to continue to rely on the blitz to get pressure as much as they have recently, Favre and Bulger are likely going to have big days as well. For pass defense, there just is no substitute for an edge rusher who can either get pressure without a blitz helping out, or can at least occasionally command a double team. People often don't grasp how an offense is limited when two guys are assigned to handling a pass rusher, or how much easier a time an offense has when the pass rush can be handled well by five offensive lineman.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 6:17pm

Hell, the Vikings don't have a good pass defense, and Grossman was hideous against them twice. When Grossman plays an across-the-board terrible defense, he is able to look good, by taking what the defense gives him, because across-the-board terrible defenses give so much to be taken. Good defenses don't, which is why Grossman has so often sucked against good defenses.

by Dan Riley (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 6:24pm

Re: #98
Bill, it's only slightly less annoying for regular readers than it is for you guys when a newbie happens along and dismisses the lot of you (and us) for being Pats homers. I suggest that each of you invest in a pair of parentheses and start presenting yourselves like politicians. In other words, from now and ever after, you would be Bill Barnwell (NYG).

by cabbage (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 6:29pm

I have it on good authority that the internet police will sentence the next person who questions Aaron Schatz's moral character to an evening of clubbing with Tank Johnson.

by Jimmy6 (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 6:31pm

Sounds like, for a lot of people, Grossman is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't.

by sonofbrocklanders (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 6:35pm

count me as one of the readers excited for the barber vs. jones debate. i did a fake salisbury/clayton debate about the duo at my blog.

I side with Barber: younger, runs harder, sheds tackles, blocks and catches better. Jones is faster. I think Parcells is a barber guy and Jerry Jones is a Julius Jones guy.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 6:50pm

Nope, Jimmy6, I won't damn Grosmman a bit when he "does" it again, namely plays well against a good defense.

by Bill Barnwell :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 7:11pm

Only if I can link the (NYG) to the Scramble where I say Eli isn't that good.

I just don't understand what the argument is. "Hey you watching the Pats game! Stop watching the team or game you want to watch and watch my team instead!"

If that were the point, I'm guessing we'd never do Audibles because it isn't fun when you're forced to watch some team's game as opposed to the team you like or - even worse - the only game you have access to!

by Carlos (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 7:21pm

Jason Taylor is looking great as usual. Is that guy ever going to get old?

Yes. The sign will be: Danny Snyder signs him to a $50M contract with a $25M signing bonus.

by Jeff (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 7:50pm


I agree that Tampa, St.Louis, Detroit and Green Bay have poor defenses. But I still think Rex could still manage to play against "good" defenses when the time comes for a couple of reasons. 1) Even "good" defenses have holes and weaknesses. This sounds funny but realistically a good pass defense( or defense in general) cannot cover ALL the options an offense can bring. What a good defense does is try and take away something an offense does well ( i.e. runnng game, deep ball, slants etc) and force the offense to exploit an weakness the defense will have a harder time protecting. I believe that Rex's biggest problem is that against good OR bad defenses he tends to think big ALL the time. Heaving passes 30 yards downfield into double coverage when throwning a flare to the running back for 4yards would be far more productive. No matter how good a defense is it cannot cover EVERYTHING equally well ALL the time.
2)I think that we could all agree that the Bears have a "good" defense yet such great quarterbacks as Tim Rattay, Joey Harrington, Alex Smith have put up good numbers against the Bears defense. Proving that regardless of how good the defense is there will still be opportunities to move the ball.
The key for Rex against ANY caliber defense is being patient. He made the Vikings and Cards pass defenses look excellent simply because he was dead set on attempting to make every pass play a big play instead of completing the 3 - 6 yard passes that WERE available. Believe me even against " good " defenses there will be opportunities for Rex to exploit. And I think with patience he CAN exploit them.

by Led (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 7:52pm

Re: 124, Jackson did indeed make some nice plays yesterday and there is no questioning his physical abilities, but he was playing against a team protecting a three score lead that had game planned for Brad Johnson's corpse to be behind center. Let's see what Jackson does when his opponent has the opportunity to game plan for his specific set of strengths and weaknesses. But he could be an exciting player. I hope he does well.

by Kal (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 8:07pm

#140: the problem isn't that Rex plays more poorly against better defenses; the problem is that when Rex doesn't do well, he does abysmally. I mean, we're not talking a mediocre day like against STL here; we're talking turning the ball over 6 times. That he's done games multiple times this year where he personally has turned the ball over 4 or more times, it's a cause for alarm - because as good as the Bears D is, they can't make up for all those mistakes all the time.

Add to this that the Bears D appears to not be doing as well in the last few weeks, and it is alarming.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 8:23pm

Jeff, if I could play like John Elway, then I could play well against the Chargers. I'm not so I can't. Grossman isn't either, although, yes, Grossman playing well against a good defense, in the playoffs, when such a defense will be playing at maximum intensity, is within the universe of possibilities. The odds are much better, however, that a player who has turned in the performances that Grossman has this year is simply a bad quarterback, and a bad quarterback is a poor bet to play well against a good defense, in the playoffs, no matter how he looks against the Rams or Bucs.

by Soulless Merchant of Fear (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 8:32pm

J.P. Losman...looking decent? For yet another game? Throwing downfield and avoiding interceptions yet again?

By the grizzled beard of Curly Lambeau, that's good news!*

Could this mean that in the next offseason...the Bills might actually go after offensive line talent? The thing they've desperately needed for years?

I grow woozy at the very thought of it.

(*Curly Lambeau may or may not have had a beard, and the grizzliness thereof is also unknown to me. Regardless, he should have had a grizzled beard, and I stand by my epithet.)

by jonnyblazin (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 8:47pm

Re: 110
"Does it really, truly matter that the contributors aren’t putting in a 5-sentence blurb about a game that went pretty much as planned save McNair going out?"
Really? The game went pretty much as planned?
Midway through the 3rd quarter Derek Anderson was 18-21 with 193 Yds and 2 TDs. You don't find it at all interesting that a backup QB on an awful offensive team shredded the 2nd best defense in the NFL for 2.5 quarters? I'd be interested to see how this happened or read some analysis of it, since this was the only Ravens game I've missed all year, but unfortunately I haven't been able to find any coverage on this issue.

I'm definitely not attempting to trying to convince anyone at FO to watch certain games on Sunday, I was simply responding to Tom's statement regarding why FO didn't submit any remarks about the Ravens (perhaps my sarcasm was a bit too much). I think I've come to grips with the fact that, despite being a very good team this year, there is not going to be much media coverage of them because they are not a popular team, whereas above average teams like the Giants recieve tons of coverage because of their large fan base. That's just the way it works, at FO as well as ESPN and other media outlets.

by James C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 8:58pm

Two weeks ago I was convinced that Grossman was quite simply useless. He just didn't seem to know where to throw the ball and the gameplans didn't seem to minimise his risks (or he was ignoring it). At the risk of invoking FOMBC, he hasn't made a bad decision in the last two games and he has hardly thrown off his back foot. There was never all that much wrong with his mechanics he just looked lost on the field.

When he has played terribly the team has generally been out-schemed. Starting with the gut blitzing and delay blitzing in the first Vikes game and then the zone dogging by the Cards, Giants, Dolphins and others. The check off routes have been wrong all year, I have spent most of the season screaming for more screen passes and draw plays on third down to take teeth out of the blitz. The last two weeks these plays finally started to appear. I think the change in play calling is as big as any change in Rex, but his decision making does seem to have made a turn for the better.

Having written all this I would still not be at all suprised if evil Rex did come back in the playoffs. Unlike some on this message board I do not think that it is inevitable.

by Pete C (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 9:03pm

To be fair, Couch had a hand in getting CLE to the post-season in 02. Carr has been nothing but a miserable bum since entering the league. But hey, he likes to wear his wedding ring when he plays, so he's got that going for him?

Ned, in your analysis of #1 busts did you take into account that Ki-Jana had 300 yards rushing and 3 td's for the 8-8 redskins in 2001? =)

by Alex (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 9:44pm

"Did anyone else notice that Brett Basanez had 11 pass attempts for the Carolina Panthers yesterday? Does anyone know anything about him beyond rookie, Northwestern?"

He was great in college, set some school passing records at Northwestern, I think. Might have some success as a pro.

by Pat (not verified) :: Mon, 12/18/2006 - 11:58pm

I agree that Tampa, St.Louis, Detroit and Green Bay have poor defenses. But I still think Rex could still manage to play against “good� defenses when the time comes for a couple of reasons.

"Magic 8-Ball Say: Outlook not so good."

What I'm really saying is Chicago fans should seriously, seriously remember that the pass defenses of St. Louis, Tampa Bay, and Detroit, really and truly suck horrendous amounts of ass - and Grossman's problem has never been that he can't rip horrendous defenses to shreds. So yes, the schedule gods giveth, the schedule gods taketh away: Chicago has a cakewalk finish, but no, you won't know if Grossman is going to instantaneously collapse against the first corner that realizes that interceptions are legal.

Let me give an example: Imagine if the Colts schedule finished out with Detroit, Arizona, Oakland, and Cleveland. Would you honestly think that when the Colts rush defense problems were fixed if they managed to hold those teams to about 100 yards rushing?

by PhillyCWC (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 12:25am

"Trent Cole...high-stepping."

Hello, my baby, hello, my honey, hello my ragtime gal.....

Yes, I spent way too much time watching Bugs Bunny cartoons in my misspent youth.

by Anti-Mooch (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 1:22am


Feel free to take back comments you made about Morningwheg, but taking back comments made about Mariucci? Go look back at game tapes of his 'offense'. As bad as the players were, they had NO chance to succeed.

by Led (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 1:39am

But, Pat, according to DPAR Grossman played well this week even adjusting for the quality of the opposition. That should be reason for cautious optimism. I could see dismissing the performance if he was running up misleadingly good conventional stats that translated into mediocre DPAR, but that was not the case this week. Are you arguing that the opponent adjustment in DPAR is insufficient or that something about Grossman makes his performance vary more widely according to strength of opponent than is captured in FO stats?

by Yaguar (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 2:19am

Many posters here, and I think Pat is one of them, think that there's something about Grossman that makes his performance vary more widely. He'll shred a bad pass defense, but if he faces a good one, he'll freak out and play absolutely terribly.

by Kal (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 2:32am

The difference, Led, is that of variance. When Grossman plays good, he plays very, very good. When he plays bad, he plays very, very bad. He does not seem to have a switch between good and evil.

And he's only good when he plays poor defenses. And he's horribly scary bad when he plays good ones.

by Will Allen (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 3:03am

Yes, the average Grossman would be a perfectly acceptable, or even good, playoff qb. No such animal exists, however.

by Sid (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 3:34am

Come on — how hard is it to know it’s Cedric Houston? Does he have to be a robot that reads what’s handed to him? Embarrassing.

It's rare to ever hear James Brown say anything remotely resembling an intelligent comment. I hate his "Keys to the Game". His keys are usually "X needs to throw for a lot of yards and Y needs to have success on the ground for [insert team name here] to win."

Really brilliant work. My 11 year old niece could do just as well.

I enjoyed the play where Houston rushed two on third-and-long. Two. Three linemen, and one dropped into coverage.

I like the Mangini prevent formations. One down lineman (did that a few times yesterday), no down lineman (when he was with the Patriots). I'd incorporate some of those into my regular playbook. Allows more flexibility.

Ryan Wilson: Early in the first quarter with the game 0-0, the Panthers decided to punt on 4th-and-1 from the Steelers’ 32. Shockingly, Kasay missed the 50-yarder.

by morganja (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 3:42am

Re: 138
If you want this to be a fun site for you and the rest of the FO staff, than do whatever you want. No one is stopping you. But if you intend for this site to grow, then maybe at some point you might consider listening to the consistent posts from people checking out the site, that there is way more Patriot coverage than the average fan outside of NE wants to read about.
No reason to take it personally. Frankly, it doesn't matter what teams you all profess to be fans of, the truth is that you all love discussing the Patriots. A helpful suggestion, only if you want the site to appeal to a larger audience, is to find some more contributors that enjoy talking about other teams as much as you all love talking about the Patriots. That way you can still talk about what you want to talk about, and readers will be able to enjoy in-depth analysis of the other teams in the league.

by emcee fleshy (atl/sd) (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 4:39am

I've long suspected that Marshall Faulk and Tony Gwynn are the same person.

by Becephalus (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 4:52am

157 I cannot remember many times I have agreed with morganja. I would admit I do find the constant NE obssessing a little off putting. This is coming from a person who recommends this site to every person who likes football I know.

Not suggesting you change anything, it is your website. But just something to consider. Most articles here are so interesting, and then there will be large sections that read to me as NE blah blah blah Tom Brady blah blah blah Rusher McFumbles blah blah blah.

by Crushinator (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 5:17am


Compared to the rest of sports websites, the Pats obsession on FO is barely existant.

I know saying "It could be worse" isn't really ever a valid argument, but the point remains. The Pats obsession on FO is pretty small comparably, and while I'm not going to say that it's not there (It is), it's only mildly annoying, so mild that I wouldn't even bring it up unless there was already a talk about it. =P

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 9:51am

Are you arguing that the opponent adjustment in DPAR is insufficient or that something about Grossman makes his performance vary more widely according to strength of opponent than is captured in FO stats?

Oh, I think it's the latter (Grossman's performance varies widely).

I don't think it's that surprising, either: Grossman's a very skilled quarterback, but his decision-making is extremely questionable. That's going to lead to extreme swings like that. That being said, I don't think I've ever seen a QB like him.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 9:53am

#160: It is also important to remember Audibles is like 'bonus' FO. Doug's got a full featured article on Fox with the entire review of the weekend's games, after all.

by mactbone (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 10:40am

Also, remember that this section is for the guys to talk about the games they're watching. From what I remember, quite a few of them live in the northeast, so it's not surprising that the game on TV is the one they'll talk about. If Aaron was from Chicago and went to Notre Dame with a bunch of other midwesterners, I'm sure everyone would complain about all the Bears coverage.

by dryheat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 10:54am

In other news, I happened to watch a little bit of the Bears game. I watched Hester fumble two of the four kicks he was returning while I was watching. Can we put an end to the ROY nominations that were popping up all over last week because Hester is "the NFLs best at his position"? If a quarterback threw 75 TD passes and 65 INTS, would we be calling him "the NFLs best at his position"?

Sounds like an interesting debate: Does a guy who you can count on for a score every week and also a turnover deep in your territory every week have more value than a consistently good player who does neither?

I suppose if your team is made up like the Bears offensively and defensively, then the answer would be yes. But I don't think that makes Hester the league's best returners...unless the two I watched were the only, or among the only, times he's put the ball on the carpet.

by Fnor (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 11:06am

#161: I don't think Grossman is a very skilled quarterback. The variance is less due to him making bad decisions and more due to him being inaccurate, and whether or not luck is on his side or the opposing team can make him pay for it. He might be developing better decision making, but I haven't seen anything to support that. People will point to Sunday's game, but I don't think those were check-downs so much as the TE was the first read... TB did a ridiculously bad job covering the TEs, and the Grossman Renaissance (at least last week) came near the end of the second quarter, with a lot of tosses to TEs, likely after the coaches noticed TB's ineptness.

by MFurtek (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 11:10am

Re: Hester Correlation to TDs
Is this the first time someone has scored more than 3 KO/PR TDs since PFP began charting these types of things?

I can understand the whole "no correlation..." but also no one has performed this high in the return game.

On the other hand, can someone explain to me why Reno Mahe is returning kicks for the Eagles? Don't you want someone fast, powerful or some combination enough that can break one when given the chance?

by Stillio (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 11:30am

The Jaguars couldn't decide if the Titans were a good team or not. So, instead of playing poorly and losing or playing great and winning, they decided to split the difference: play great and still lose. I'm still in a bit of shock. I watched a defense stop every 3rd down, shut down the run including VY, and basically hold a team scoreless...but they lost. I watched an offense run and pass for over 200 yards and hold the ball for 44 minutes...but they lost. I'm not taking anything away from the Titans because they made the big plays to win, period...but I can't help it that I still think the Jags should have won even with the four turnovers if only they could have tackled the Titans defenders afterwards. Could've, would've, should've doesn't even seem to cover it in this case. I take some comfort in the fact that the Jags still control their own destiny (thanks to the Colts...argh!) and they don't have any more teams with losing records on the schedule.

by azibuck (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 11:43am

Aaron, or anyone that knows Aaron, why don't you like satellite? I've had satellite for about 6 years, NFL Ticket for only two years, and I don't think I'll ever go back to cable.

by Pat (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 11:50am

On the other hand, can someone explain to me why Reno Mahe is returning kicks for the Eagles? Don’t you want someone fast, powerful or some combination enough that can break one when given the chance?

Half the Eagles fans in existence would like an answer to that question, as well. The most common answer that people put forth is "because he's from BYU, and Reid likes BYU guys."

But to be honest, I don't get the problem. Mahe's clearly a one-year solution (since they drafted Bloom), and he (usually) makes good decisions and is shifty enough to get something.

by Wanker79 (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 11:58am

Re: 169

Yeah, I don't really have much of a problem with Reno receiving kicks. Its true that he's about as likely to break one as I am, but he's usually pretty smart with stuff like when to fair catch and when to let it bounce and stuff like that.

by Travis (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 11:59am

Is this the first time someone has scored more than 3 KO/PR TDs since PFP began charting these types of things?

Dante Hall scored 3 in 2002, and 4 in 2003.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 12:33pm

morganja (#157 )--

The problem is not that all the Outsiders like talking about the Patriots. It's that Aaron likes talking about the Patriots, and he's the cornerstone of the site. He also likes watching the Patriots, and it's much easier to go on at length about the game you're actually watching. Couple that with, well, he's pretty good at this analysis thing, and all the other Outsiders seem to like talking to him, and you'll get a lot of Patriots talk in this feature every week.

Myself, I love it, because I'm a Patriots fan stuck in the Eagles broadcast area. You who don't like the Patriots -- well, much of the commentary was criticism (cutting Doug Gabriel was a bad move, Chad Scott can't cover a penny with a dish towel). Just view it as bonus ripping-the-Pats coverage.

by Tom Kelso (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 1:22pm

115 and others:

No Outsiders live in Maryland, as far as I know, or Northeastern Ohio, either. And Ravens-Browns just wasn't going to be shown outside of that area -- not even in DC, since the 'Skins were playing at the same time (although GE won't mention that as a base for another diatribe this week).

But to say that FO doesn't talk about the Ravens, or that they ignore them, simply isn't true. MDS has TWICE torn up the "Freeney owns Ogden" myth, the linebackers got another EPC of their own this season, and I have argued numerous times with Doug and Ryan (what do you expect from a Rivethead, though?) when I think their Ravens coverage has been sloppy -- and credited people when they do a good job; such as Aaron's use of DVOA to show that Boller is actually turning into a decent quarterback.

With 32 teams, I don't think Raven fans can complain when the 14th-most interesting game on the schedule this week doesn't get much talk. I was hoping to hear something from Jaws on how the O-line has held together without Mulitalo, though...........

by Bill Barnwell :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 2:44pm

That's the thing.

Audibles isn't a column written for FOX or something similar. It's not even a column. It's a collection of e-mails. Like #162 said, it's a bonus.

It's not that I love talking about the Patriots, so that's not the truth. I love talking about football, but the Patriots aren't a team that stand out for me. I live in Boston. Bill Moore, Aaron, and Ian all live in the area. That's 25% of the crew right there that gets the Patriots game on TV every week. That's why you see a lot of Patriots comments in Audibles.

If I got the Chargers games every week on TV, I'd comment on those, trust me.

I don't think that we write a inordinate amount of actual columns and content about the Patriots -- the one thing that gets written about them that no one else gets is the weekly column about them I write for Bruce Allen's site, and that's because Bruce Allen was the only person who requested weekly FO content about them. If a prominent Browns fansite had requested FO content each week, I'd be doing that instead.

by Not saying (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 3:36pm

Re: 174

I agree with your points. It seems like a problem in perception though. Manic Monday, for example, just goes in the sidebar "FO on Fox". So the first content people get when they come here after games is the Audibles. People might not look at it as "extra", especially if they're first timers.

Now, I like the Audibles a lot, and I'm not complaining nor suggesting you change it. I just think there could be a problem that people see and it is something you have to address almost every week. That's where I see morganja (I just got that name) as having a point: with newcomers and expanding the site. Me, I'm fine with it the way it is.

Of course, I'm a Pats homer, so take that with a grain of salt.

by Starshatterer (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 4:29pm

Another thought has occurred:

Want non-Patriots content? Write some.

This is the part of FO most like a blog. Use the comments. Add your own audibles. Repeat quips you emailed or IRCed during the game of your choice. Cross-post from the game open thread. (Unless it's about raspberry jam.)

by morganja (not verified) :: Tue, 12/19/2006 - 7:21pm

I wasn't criticizing FO for talking about the Patriots so much. It's what they like to do and it's great to get so much input about a team. I'm simply suggesting that it would help them to find some people to help on the site that live in a different part of the country and are as rabid about some other teams. A couple writers obssessing about the Raiders, for example, would be brilliant. We learn so much more from failure than we do sucess. And what better way to highlight what the Patriots do right then by showing what another team does wrong.

Anyhow, I'm not saying that they should tone down their Patriots talk, simply augment it with other writers' input from other regions.

by Pat (not verified) :: Wed, 12/20/2006 - 3:50pm

#177: See #176.

Nothing's stopping you from adding comments about the teams that weren't covered.

I really don't mean to be harsh, but I just don't see the point of criticizing Audibles, which gets done every week. If people want comments about a game, they can add them themselves. The guys didn't see the game, so they don't have a comment.

There are more comments complaining about no comments about the Ravens/Browns game than there are about the Ravens/Browns game itself. So it's not surprising that no one on staff had anything to say, considering no commenters did either. :)

by TomG (not verified) :: Thu, 12/21/2006 - 1:54pm

As the person who apparently started the "why was there nothing on the Ravens Browns game thread", I'll add my 2 cents.

I'm a Ravens fan first and an NFL fan second. In the 13 years when Baltimore was lost in the wilderness, I rarely watched the NFL, and resented the efforts of the NFL to force the Redskins down our throats (which is why Baltimore still hates the Redskins)

I like FO a lot. Naturally I am disappointed when there is little or nothing on the Ravens in Audibles (which is frequent) so I don't regularly visit Audibles.

My general comments on the Ravens: I think it is rare to have a team whose defense is more fun to watch than its offense. The Ravens have been that way for about 7 years. Commentators generally don't get that about the Ravens. Their games are often described as boring because of the dominance of its defense.

This year the offense has become professional and about average. This is sufficient with that defense.

Billick's firing of Fassel and taking over as offensive coordinator is an interesting storyline. It has clearly given the offense a little extra bounce in their step.

Maybe the comments are right. If I want Ravens content in Audibles, I should put it there.

by Jivas (not verified) :: Mon, 12/25/2006 - 10:18pm

148: Brett Basanez

I'd be *shocked* if Basanez developed into anything more than a poor backup QB. He had a fantastic Senior season at Northwestern when he set all sorts of school records, but it was his third year as a starter and the first time he had displayed that level of ability (~63% completion last year, ~53% his first two years - see link). Additionally, he is very limited physically in terms of arm strength and athletic ability, and he's not *so* accurate to overcome the lack of overall physical ability.

In the right system I suppose he could become a homeless man's Jeff Garcia (he ran for over 400 yards his Senior season, and can throw on the run). I live in Chicago and watched him quite a bit last year; I'm sure he's a great kid, and I don't want to appear mean, but from a scouting standpoint there's just not much to project.