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15 Dec 2014

Audibles at the Line: Week 15

by Andrew Potter

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

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

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

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 at Atlanta Falcons 20

Scott Kacsmar: Among the pantheon of cornerbacks who will give up big plays, but still seem to be in the right place at the right time just enough, we have DeAngelo Hall, Janoris Jenkins, and William Gay. The Pittsburgh cornerback just scored his third pick-six of the season. I'm not sure where Matt Ryan was throwing, but he has been really off to start this game. He missed a wide-open Roddy White on third down on the first drive, but no one has ever said Ryan was an accurate thrower on the run. The Steelers are fortunate Julio Jones is out today, but it might not even matter if Ryan's going to make throws like this. Pittsburgh's offense had its usual first quarter of moving the ball, but settling for field goals. The pick-six has opened this one up at 13-0.

I don't know how defense is supposed to be played anymore. Steelers get a clean sack, but I guess they hit Matt Ryan too hard and it drew a roughing the passer call. Helped extend a drive that ended with a touchdown. Guess that's exactly what the NFL wants.

Andrew Healy: Early third quarter, fourth-and-2 on the Pittsburgh 10-yard line down 20-7 and new-and-not-improved Mike Smith of course kicks. Hard to believe Mike Smith used to go for it in this spot at this point. Not unusual that he doesn't, but it is even worse with his defense. They need more points than most.

Washington Redskins 13 at New York Giants 24

Cian Fahey: Is anyone watching the New York Giants-Washington game? Seems like RGIII is playing well.

Andrew Potter: Jeff Triplette just made a call I've never seen before. On the last play of the first half, Robert Griffin, leaping for the end zone at the pylon, gets across the plane and is awarded a touchdown. The award is overturned on review, as according to the referees Griffin fumbled forward for a split-second while airborne, caught his own fumble before either he or the ball touched the ground, but did not re-establish possession in the field of play before going out of bounds -- making it a fumble through the end zone for a touchback. I've never seen anything remotely like that decision before. Seems a classic case of a referee convincing himself that he has seen something on slow-motion review that would never have been called in normal play.

Vince Verhei: Craziness at the end of the half. On third-and-goal, Griffin scrambles around right end and appears to score as time expires. It's a huge all-or-nothing play that appears to put Washington up 17-7. On review, though, it's ruled that Griffin lost control of the ball before crossing the goal line, so it's a fumble and a touchback and the half is over. And everyone in yellow pants lost their minds screaming at the officials. Santana Moss was ejected. Honestly, it took me so long to figure out what was going on I can't tell if it was a good call or not. The ball bounces away as Griffin hits the ground, but it wasn't obvious that he was bobbling it in midair or anything.

Up to that point, it looked to me like Griffin was the Griffin of old, running lots of bootlegs and misdirections and making smart reads and good throws on the run. I still think Washington is nuts if they're getting rid of him, and I think the bidding war between the Texans and Rams for his services is going to be intense.

Should add, that non-touchdown was Griffin's first run of the first half, so it's not as if he's running willy nilly out of control out there.

Scott Kacsmar: Good job by Tom Coughlin to take advantage of those penalties on Washington and do a weird looking onside kick. Not sure I've ever seen a kickoff under those circumstances before.

Vince Verhei: So after the end-of-half penalties against Washington, the Giants are kicking off from the Washington 35-yard line. They of course do an onside kick and recover after Washington bobbles it, and they start the second half with a first down at the 22-yard line. The drive stalls without a single first down, but the Giants kick a field goal to tie the game at 10. So that replay review, including the ensuing penalty-fest, wound up causing a 10-point swing in this game.

Aaron Schatz: Here's Mike Pereira's explanation of the Griffin fumble:

Vince Verhei: After a Washington field goal, Odell Beckham Jr. takes a quick slant and goes untouched up the middle of the defense for a 35-yard touchdown to put the Giants up 17-13. About a month ago I was filling in on the fantasy advice service and a reader asked if he should trade Beckham for Josh Gordon. I told him he'd be better off with Beckham. Think I got that one right.

In the end, Washington had no answer for Beckham (who finished 12-15-143-3), or for the Giants' pass rush (Griffin was sacked seven times, I think five times in the second half). Giants win 24-13. We've talked about why the game should be closer than that, but it's clear that New York was the better team after halftime, and that Griffin was much shakier in the third and fourth quarters as well. In the pocket, he sometimes looked panicky and indecisive, and he finished with three fumbles, including the fluky non-touchdown call.

Miami Dolphins 13 at New England Patriots 41

Aaron Schatz: Patriots block a Miami field goal and return for a touchdown, which helps everyone here at Gillette forget the inexplicable defensive matchups the Pats brought out on the first Miami drive. They started out with Malcolm Butler, their FIFTH cornerback, in man coverage on Mike Wallace to the far left. You think Ryan Tannehill saw that? Tannehill didn't even need to hit a bullet. He hung up a bit of a duck and Wallace still easily caught it by himself for 50 yards after toasting Butler.

Later in that drive, we saw a trips left with Darrelle Revis inexplicably lined up against the closed right side, and then a spread formation with Revis for some reason in the slot against Jarvis Landry. I don't know if they are trying to confuse Tannehill with constantly shifting coverages like they did Manning, but golly, I don't think it's really that necessary. Yes, Mike Wallace is overpaid. Yes, he is overrated. Do not put your fifth cornerback on him.

Dolphins and Patriots go to halftime with the Pats up 14-13. Miami has clearly outplayed the Patriots in this game. Weird and unexpected. Tom Brady looks off -- not as bad as he looked earlier in the year, but definitely not finding his open guys. (In his defense, his interception wasn't a bad play by him, but a phenomenal athletic jumping batted ball by Miami backup linebacker Jason Trusnick.) The big difference in his game are two huge Patriots plays -- not the plays themselves, but rather the returns that followed. The Pats blocked that field goal and got a touchdown out of it. Then they got an interception on a Ryan Tannehill overthrow and what should have been a 5- or 10-yard return became instead something like a 60-yard return. Hard to stop the Pats offense from the 8-yard line. Dolphins stuck two guys on Rob Gronkowski out wide on third-and-goal and the Pats just handed it to Shane Vereen for the touchdown.

The Dolphins have had a number of plays just missed by inches. A wide-open Damian Williams streaking into the end zone dropped a sure touchdown. Mike Wallace touched his feet out of bounds on what should have been a third-and-long conversion. But Wallace finally made them play right before halftime. Pats had to punt the ball back to the Dolphins with 15 seconds or so left and Dolphins got into position to try one play before a field goal. They threw a bomb to Mike Wallace who was once again single-covered by Malcolm Butler, which I just do not understand at all. It looked like Wallace pushed off, but Butler may have interfered also, and no flag was thrown. Wallace caught the ball rolling out of bounds in the end zone but replay showed he had the ball before he rolled out. So, 14-13.

Andrew Healy: What odds could you have gotten on Miami having 271 yards and 6.8 yards per play at the half, and the Patriots 102 yards with 3.6 yards per play? If you would have guessed one team would be up 14-13 on fluky plays despite being about doubled in yards per play, it would not have been the Patriots.

But the Patriots are clicking on their first drive of the second half. Julian Edelman with a drop on a pretty pass from Brady under pressure on second-and-11, but then Brady looks as fast as I remember with a really nice scramble to the 3-yard-line on third down. Evoked that scramble against the Raiders in the 2001 playoffs a bit. Then LeGarrette Blount for six and maybe the Pats have woken up.

Aaron Schatz: By "as fast as you remember" I believe you mean "not fast."

Andrew Healy: No, maybe it's my Pats bias, but he actually looked kind of quick and nimble on that one. I meant "as fast as I can ever remember him being." OK, maybe I'm just horribly biased.

Aaron Schatz: Post-halftime report from Gillette: Well, that escalated quickly. Pats now up 31-13 with 4:30 left in third quarter. Pats benched Malcolm Butler at halftime, which seems like a valid adjustment to me. Pats offense marched up the field for a touchdown. Dolphins went three-and-out. Pats offense marched up the field but stalled for a field goal. Dolphins threw a tip-drill interception on the first play of their next drive that bounced right into the hands of Logan Ryan, and then Brady to Gronk up the seam for another touchdown on one play.

It's 31-13, and we may have finally reached the point where the Patriots could say they have played as well as the Dolphins today. And they are winning by 18. Miami's luck today has been so, so bad. Luck would have been even worse if the refs had not reversed that Wallace catch to make it a touchdown.

Andrew Healy: And one more piece of luck: On the field goal drive, Edelman fumbled with a bunch of Dolphins around and the ball bounced back to him while lying on the ground.

In fairness, Brady has been fantastic in the second half. A perfect throw to Gronkowski down the left seam for the touchdown to put them up 31-13. Now another perfect throw down the left seam to set up the touchdown to Edelman on the next play. Those throws deep down the left seam to Gronkowski are so scary. On the last one, the safety came over and hit Gronk with a chance to pull a T.J. Ward, but he didn't go quite so low, fortunately. Looked a little gimpy afterwards, though.

Aaron Schatz: And Jamie Collins brought the U-haul and moved into Miami's backfield at halftime. This is a hell of a first half/second half switcheroo here.

Cian Fahey: Have only seen the highlights that have been shown on Red Zone, but even in those I could see two long, accurate touchdown passes from Tannehill that were dropped. He's lost so many yards this season because of how limited his options are.

Houston Texans 10 at Indianapolis Colts 17

Tom Gower: Rough start for Andrew Luck, including a pick-6 to Kendrick Lewis when he (A) misread the coverage, or (B) expected Coby Fleener to sit down in the zone void instead of running a crossing route. He started making plays later in the first half, and the Colts hold a 14-7 halftime lead.

For Houston, the big news is that Ryan Fitzpatrick went down on an innocuous-seeming scramble (2 yards on second-and-6) and ended up getting carted off with his left leg in an air cast. Tom Savage is now playing quarterback, and he looks like a rookie who hasn't gotten a lot of practice reps -- strong arm (he found DeAndre Hopkins on a nice downfield throw) but took a sack on third down without ever seeming to notice anything other than the pass rush, and cost the Texans the ball one play after a Reggie Wayne fumble when he put the football on the inside of Arian Foster's inside hip on an outside zone run play. Houston was struggling to sustain offense even with Fitzmagic in the game (his scrambles weren't as effective, plus the Colts were doing a better job of contesting Hopkins at the catch point) that now I'm not sure what they're going to do aside from hope Foster can do something amazing and pray to J.J. Watt for intercession.

Also, the most bizarre thing for the first half is Hakeem Nicks actually did a couple of positive things, catching a touchdown pass and making a nice catch to set up the second touchdown pass, after spending most of the season on a milk carton.

The Texans did a good job in coverage the second half on the Colts' receivers, which really limited the offense. Then the Colts took over and, mostly with Boom Herron, ran the ball down their throats to run five of seven minutes off the clock and take a 17-10 lead. Tom Savage two-minute drill for the touchdown then went about how you'd think it would, and Vontae Davis' interception on fourth down ended things.

Cincinnati Bengals 30 at Cleveland Browns 0

Cian Fahey: Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel. Never have two players been so dissimilar but created such a similar cult following.

Aaron Schatz: Even more if you consider how they act off the field.

Ben Muth: Johnny Manziel's first start is going as poorly as possible. The Browns have had three possessions and they have gone three-and-out, three-and-out, interception. Manziel's arm looks surprisingly weak. On the second drive he made a nice play stepping up in the pocket and finding a receiver downfield (Andrew Hawkins I believe), but the ball floated and by the time it got to the receiver a defensive back had closed enough to lay a hit and force a drop. The receiver should've caught the ball, but if Manziel had more zip on the ball the defender doesn't come into play. The next drive Manziel floated a deep route to the sideline that allowed Dre Kirkpatrick to undercut the pass and make the pick.

The bigger (though less noteworthy) issue for Cleveland is that they cannot stop Jeremy Hill. The only time anyone in a Browns jersey has stuffed Hill is when a couple of fans shoved Hill down when he tried to do a Lambeau Leap after his second touchdown.

Cian Fahey: Jeremy Hill's selection during the draft seemed really dumb at the time because the Bengals had needs elsewhere with BJGE and Giovani Bernard already available at running back. Since then, he has really established himself as an important piece for that offense.

Furthermore, Hill had some harsh words about the Browns' victory over his Bengals after they last met. He's definitely backed them up today.

Aaron Schatz: I just have to follow up on today's Cleveland-Cincinnati game by asking everyone to read the Carolina-Tampa Bay section of this week's Mike Tanier game previews.

It's like the guy is psychic.

If Manziel had gone to his press conference after the game and been angry about sucking so bad, people would have complained. If he had been crying and moping, people would have complained. So they caught him smiling? And people complained. People were looking to complain about his attitude, because they wanted a lazy narrative instead of trying to actually dissect his performance and figure out what it might tell us about whether this guy could actually develop into an NFL starting quarterback.

Ben Muth: Manziel's actual performance was so bad that its hard to really discus it in depth without it seeming like you're overreacting to a rookie's first start. He never gets his lower body engaged any time he has to move off his original spot (which seemed often), and as a result every pass was high and lacked velocity. His processing speed was slow too, so most of his passes were late. High, slow, and late may be the three worst adjectives to use when discussing a quarterback's passes.

Also, he drops his eyes when he moves in the pocket. He'll get them back up after he's out of danger, but he makes it a two-step process: evade, then look if people are open.

Andrew Healy: I know you can't close the book on Manziel yet (or at least that would sound like an overreaction), but starts this bad as a rookie are a pretty good sign the quarterback will be terrible, period.

Since 1999, list of QBs who have starts with under 100 yards, adjusted yards per attempt under 4 and two interceptions:

Mike Glennon, Blaine Gabbert, Max Hall, Luke McCown, JaMarcus Russell, Henry Burris (?), David Carr, Quincy Carter, Brodie Croyle, Randy Fasani (?), Josh Freeman, Jeff Garcia, David Garrard, Mike Kafka, Kurt Kittner, Eli Manning, Cody Pickett, Akili Smith, Alex Smith, Anthony Wright.

These guys are not all terrible, but there is a pretty high terribleness ratio in that group.

Rob Weintraub: Not much to add, except I watched this game from an aerie in Manhattan Beach overlooking the ocean, a peaceful, easy setting that matched my feeling throughout. Nothing like a game with so few agita attacks. Thank you Johnny. This game reminded me a bit of RG3's first home game in DC way back when (only two years ago you say? Can't be true). Cincy ate up his read-option plays and won comfortably enough, though Griffin was demonstrably better as a rook than Johnny was today. This was a far truer reflection of the two teams than the Thursday night debacle, which I continue to maintain meant nothing, as most Thursday Night Football games do (sure enough, Kansas City pounded Oakland in the rematch of that shocker as well).

Next two weeks for Cincy, vs. Denver and Pittsburgh with the division on the line -- not likely to be so worry-free.

Jacksonville Jaguars 12 at Baltimore Ravens 20

Cian Fahey: The Jaguars continue to be a frustrating team to watch on offense. Blake Bortles is struggling, as rookies tend to struggle, but he has shown some accuracy throwing the ball down the field today. Worryingly for the Ravens defense, the Jaguars have moved the ball more comfortably than you would ever expect them to against this underwhelming secondary.

Aaron Schatz: Wait... they've moved the ball more comfortably than we normally expect from the Jaguars because the Ravens secondary is underwhelming? Or they've moved the ball even more comfortably than we would expect given that we would expect the Jaguars to have more success against the Baltimore defensive backs than they usually have against an average secondary?

Cian Fahey: Ha, I convoluted that one.

Ravens secondary is underwhelming, but I'm still surprised at how easily the Jaguars are moving the ball.

At the half, the Jaguars have looked a lot better than the Ravens. The Ravens are lucky to still be within one score. Bortles threw one of the best passes of his rookie season late in the second quarter to set up a last-second field goal in the second quarter. He hit Allen Hurns in the chest deep on a post route.

Andrew Healy: An awesome fake punt by the Jaguars midway through the third quarter. Bryan Anger with a little shovel pass to the upback. First down close to midfield, down 17-12. That goes with a successful first-quarter onside kick. Love it.

Cian Fahey: The Ravens grind this one out in the second half. Losing at this stage probably isn't a major negative for the Jaguars, because it helps them stay high in the draft order, but the players will feel like they lost a game that they should have won.

It was largely an uneventful and uninspiring contest, with one humorous moment late on when Gary Kubiak called a designed run outside right tackle with quarterback Joe Flacco to convert a crucial third down.

Green Bay Packers 13 at Buffalo Bills 21

Mike Kurtz: Buffalo's entire strategy through the first quarter has been to fire the defensive ends off the edges every single play and get in Aaron Rodgers' face. It worked extremely well for the first 14 minutes or so, until Rodgers realized the middle was completely open. A series of three handoffs and about 50 yards later, Rodgers hits Jordy Nelson on the quick slant after the linebackers start crowding in to stop the run. I feel like this game is going to be an honest to god cat-and-mouse game, which should be immensely fun.

If only Kyle Orton could manage a real offense.

Of course, as I say that Orton starts throwing (pretty well) downfield.

Vince Verhei: I have seen a lot of touchdowns after punters have outkicked their coverage, but Buffalo got a touchdown when Tim Masthay underkicked his coverage today. Marcus Thigpen had to bob and weave through traffic just to field the ball, and but when he finally did he was already ahead of at least one of his blockers and a few members of the Green Bay coverage team. Then he made one guy miss in traffic and had nothing but open field in front of him.

Green Bay's interior line is shoving the Bills around, and Eddie Lacy is getting into the secondary on most of his carries. On passing plays, though, the Bills are getting lots of pressure, and Aaron Rodgers is struggling to find open receivers. He has also made a few bad throws, overthrowing a wide-open receiver on a wheel route, and throwing what should have been a pick-six to his left, but the defender dropped the pass.

Bills receivers have made a couple of good plays downfield adjusting to badly thrown balls, a critical skill in the Buffalo offense. But really it's the special teams that are keeping Buffalo in this game -- they just blocked a field goal, and we're tied at 10 with about six minutes to go in the first half.

Mike Kurtz: There have been now two big fights between those historic rivals, the Packers and the Bills.

Cian Fahey: The Bills have a really, really good defense that matches up well with the Packers personnel, but there's really no denying that the Packers are two different teams on the road versus at home. The No. 1 seed in the NFC is likely more important for them than any other team.

Aaron Schatz: Again, I'll point out that over the long term, almost every team in the NFL tends to have a similar home-field advantage. Is home field really more important for Green Bay than it is for Seattle or Arizona? Especially given that Seattle, more than any other team, really has had a larger than normal home-field advantage for more than a decade?

Cian Fahey: Based on how they've played this year, yes. Definitely.

Vince Verhei: There's no question that today is just not their day. Jordy Nelson gets 5 yards behind the defense for what should be a 97-yard go-ahead touchdown, and Rodgers lays the ball soft as a pillow onto his fingertips, and Nelson flat-out drops it.

Andrew Healy: Aaron Rodgers gets picked on an athletic play by Bacarri Rambo. All credit to Rambo, although Rodgers probably had a better trajectory available on the throw. Near end of third quarter, Rodgers is 9-of-29 for 90 yards with an interception. Buffalo's pass defense is No. 1 by DVOA, No. 5 by traditional rankings. Hooray advanced stats. Although Nelson misses a chance to change all that, as Vince said.

Mike Kurtz: Whoever is calling this game (Tasker?) really has to learn how to pronounce "Bulaga." He's been calling him "Beluga" all game. Up until the play where Bulaga is hurt. Maybe it was for the best?

Vince Verhei: The Bills offense in the second half has consisted almost entirely of screens, quick outs, and running plays, and their success or failure has depended simply on whether the Packers have been able to make tackles. Thanks to a couple of chunk plays here and there, plus some Rodgers interceptions, they've been able to drive into Green Bay territory, but haven't finished any drives. They just kicked another field goal, but it's a big one that puts them up two possessions, 19-10, with about ten minutes to go. Too early to focus on killing the clock yet, but at this point it's starting to look like their game to lose.

Mike Kurtz: For some reason, Green Bay has made Randall Cobb the centerpiece of their second-half offense. He has taken snaps in the backfield, run end-arounds, been thrown to a lot. It's been successful, but it's a bit strange considering the success they had earlier in the game power running with Lacy.

Vince Verhei: Green Bay added a field goal and got the ball back with a chance for a two-minute drill touchdown, but the game ended on one of the weirdest plays in a day full of weird plays. Mario Williams beats the right tackle and swats the ball out of Rodgers' hand. The ball comes to a rest in the end zone. Eventually Eddie Lacy picks it up and tries to run it out, but the refs whistle the play dead, and it's a safety. I have no idea what happened there. Regardless, Bills recover the onside kick and kneel out the clock to win.

Aaron Schatz: It did appear to me that Lacy made it out and it should have been Packers ball at the 1-yard line. I don't quite get why play was blown dead.

I love the rare free onside kick try though.

Andrew Potter: In the last two minutes of the half, if the offense recovers a fumble the ball is dead at the spot of the recovery unless it's recovered by the player who fumbled.

Aaron Schatz: Ha! Screwed by the Holy Roller rule.

Scott Kacsmar: In the last two minutes only the person fumbling the ball can recover it. So once Lacy touched the ball, the play was dead for a safety. Sure, it looked a little weird, but I like the rule in that we don't want to see Holy Roller moments decide games. That's really the reason for the rule. So blame it on Ken "The Snake" Stabler if you wanted to see another play there.

Mike Kurtz: For those who don't like the Holy Roller, it's worth mentioning that Lacy re-fumbled the ball in the end zone anyway.

Rob Weintraub: "Madden is out on the field. He wants to know if it's real. They say yes, get your big butt out of here. He does!"

Immortal call by Bill King from the Holy Roller game. Probably not so good from Packers radio and Wayne Larrivee today.

New York Jets 16 at Tennessee Titans 11

Tom Gower: 5-3 at the half, in a game that's pretty much lived up/down/spin around in circles up to the 2-11 vs. 2-11 billing. The Jets have featured a lot of Chris Johnson, which has gone about as well as anybody who's actually bothered to watch Chris Johnson without being blinded by homerism would expect. Titans showed some basic offensive functionality early to get their field goal. The safety came after a good Titans punt (a theme this game, and very likely their best and most consistent unit this season) buried the Jets inside the 10-yard line and off what looked like a middle screen call where Jurrell Casey had a free path to Geno Smith (well, mostly free, save for screen back Chris Ivory).

Knowing what's at stake, the Titans then muffed the ensuing free kick. The Jets went three-and-kick, and Nick Folk hit the front of the crossbar from 53 yards to keep it 5-0. The Jets would finally get on the scoreboard after they put together their own little drive, though they actually punted, at least until the Titans ran into the punter (I thought it was a quite clumsy roughing) to knock the Jets into field goal range.

Jake Locker was not having a good game, outside of a third-down play where he scrambled to avoid the sack and found Nate Washington, I believe, on a big completion to set up the first field goal. He got injured late in the second quarter when Quentin Coples blasted him from the blindside -- like Mettenberger last week, a legal hit and one the quarterback should have seen coming, but who cares about a shoulder injury to a quarterback anyway? Charlie Whitehurst came in and hit David Harris in the chest for what could have been a touchdown on the first play, if only Jets defenders weren't allergic to catching interceptions.

NFL football, it's faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaantastic.

Andrew Healy: It would be pretty quintessential Jets to win a must-lose ugly game. After a pass interference on Eric Decker puts the Jets on the one, Chris Ivory scores to put the Jets up 16-11 with three minutes left. Loved the Rex Ryan fist pump on the pass interference call. Not his best effort, but he still seemed a little fired up.

Scott Kacsmar: I'm not sure if Whitehurst had a legal lateral there or not, but that was very close to working at the end. I'm surprised Delanie Walker didn't try to lateral to someone instead of going out of bounds, but maybe he'd rather the team draft a real quarterback.

Then again, Marcus Mariota was probably watching this game thinking "Damn, 80 percent of my NFL career is going to be called by Spero Dedes."

Andrew Healy: Jets and Titans made history today. First game since at least 1940 that ended with a 16-11 score.

Tom Gower: A somewhat entertaining slopfest, all the way to the final play. Whitehurst's lateral was definitely forward, so any Titans score there would not have counted, but it was still an amusing play if no Panthers against the Eagles in 2003. That was one of my favorite plays in NFL history, a wacky lateral-fest completely forgotten because (A) it was negated by a forward lateral and (B) it came at the end of the game with Philadelphia leading Carolina by nine.

But, hey, a huge pass play, taken away on replay, a brawl, another dropped pick, a drive-extending penalty on third-and-16, a big play by one of the many players playing against his former team in the game, pass interference in the end zone to set up the go-ahead touchdown, and then not one but two semi-realistic chances to get the winning score. Then, at the end, my tanking team passed the second of three serious, serious tests to get the best draft pick they could. Final one Thursday, then they'll assuredly blow whatever pick they could have had against a Colts team with nothing to play for.

Denver Broncos 22 at San Diego Chargers 10

Aaron Schatz: This game is really bringing home the idea that Denver seems to think it is a running-and-defense team now. Broncos up 9-0. Peyton Manning especially isn't throwing much by the goal line. San Diego seems to only be getting yardage in 3-yard chunks.

And just to emphasize that, Manning is apparently getting an IV in the locker room (dehydration?) and Brock Osweiler is in with 1:33 left in the second quarter.

Andrew Healy: John Fox is pretty bad strategically. Field goal on fourth-and-goal inside the one before Denver went up 9-0. Definitely very bad, but a little less bad with Denver's defense dominating.

Really don't like the first- and second-down passes on Osweiler's first drive. Two incompletions that give San Diego the ball back with a chance to score. San Diego would have gotten the ball back with very little time left if Denver had just run the ball since the Chargers only had one timeout. The Chargers get an even better situation with a long Eddie Royal punt return, but settle for three.

I don't like being passive there in most situations, but it sounds like Manning is coming back, so why not just make it very likely you're going into the locker room up 9-0?

Aaron Schatz: Philip Rivers just threw to a completely covered Malcom Floyd. Great coverage by Aqib Talib. Interception likely ices game with 4:30 left and Denver up nine.

And then Peyton Manning and the Broncos go three-and-out. Field goal to go up 22-10. Apparently Manning is sick today, which explains the IV and maybe some of his struggles? Denver really doing this with defense today.

... And they just did it with defense again, with another pick of Rivers in the end zone after Rivers tried to bring the Chargers down for a score.

Scott Kacsmar: I don't think Manning struggled today. One of the highest YPA averages of his career (233 yards on 20 attempts). Some of the deep balls looked very good, sick or not. Denver just continued to go run-heavy, maybe to help him out with the illness in particular today.

Minnesota Vikings 14 at Detroit Lions 16

Andrew Healy: A brutal punt kills the Lions after conservative play-calling. They punt from midfield with 53 seconds left, about 28 yards and then a 3-yard return. Ends up as a 20-yard change in field position after a 5-yard penalty.

San Francisco 49ers 7 at Seattle Seahawks 17

Aaron Schatz: San Francisco's defense apparently has not gotten the memo about quitting on the season. Repeatedly whipping the Seattle offensive line today.

Vince Verhei: 49ers lead 7-3 at halftime. It feels like every 49ers run has gained 2 yards or less, or 10 yards or more. Lots of big chunk plays (including a Colin Kaepernick scramble), lots of losses (including some Kaepernick options). And that's about it. Kaepernick has only thrown eight passes, for 89 yards (and he's been sacked three times).

Aaron noted Seattle's offensive line getting whipped, which is true. They're in the game because (A) they have converted a lot of third-and-1s on the ground, (B) Eric Reid got called for two personal fouls on one drive to set up a field goal, and (C) Russell Wilson has hit a handful of big passes through the air. I'd imagine 49ers fans are upset about those two Reid calls. One was a late hit out of bounds where Doug Baldwin was a full yard outside the field of play, but still in midair. He was very clearly headed out of bounds, but technically not down yet. The other was the classic head-on hit on a crossing pattern where I'm not sure what the defender is supposed to do. If it's the same hit on a kickoff return, it's a clean play. I guess safeties and corners are supposed to let receivers run into them and try to wrap up as they pass by.

Seahawks ended the third half on the edge of field-goal range, but Wilson threw an interception that came frighteningly close to a pick-six. He overthrew his target, but even if the play had been completed, the 49ers would have made the tackle and the clock would have run out. I'm not sure what Seattle's game plan here is. They've only run the option a couple of times, and Wilson hasn't kept it yet. They have been throwing a lot to Jermaine Kearse, which is more or less working, but it sure seems weird.

49ers seemed like a lost cause after the Raiders loss, but the final image of the half was Kaepernick laughing and pumping his fist, which pretty much sums up the first half, really.

Aaron Schatz: Yeah, that Eric Reid play was a "NFL attempts to repeal the laws of physics" special.

Andrew Healy: The Wilson throw at the end of the first half was a very strange decision. The play came from just inside the 30-yard line and eight seconds were left at the snap. It's kind of a mini-Hail Mary. I actually thought they were going to do the throw out of bounds to kill a few seconds to make the field goal the last play of the half. Or maybe a quick out to the right which looked like the 49ers might be making possible.

Vince Verhei: In the second half, Seahawks have gone with the creative strategy of "let's give the ball to Marshawn Lynch over and over again." He had six carries in the first half, and eight carries in two drives in the third quarter. He capped off the second drive with a touchdown to put Seattle ahead 10-7. San Francisco's defense is wearing down and missing tackles. I also liked a second-and-long play where Lynch and Robert Turbin were both on the field. Lynch motioned out wide as a decoy, and Turbin took a handoff and gained good yards to set up Lynch's score on third-and-1.

They put up a graphic saying Richard Sherman has given up five completions for 70-some yards. That's a little unfair, because it includes a Garrett Celek completion where Sherman was the nearest defender in zone coverage and Kaepernick scrambled to keep a play alive. But San Francisco has beaten him a few times in man coverage on crossing patterns going from the right all the way across the field to the left. Those plays have exposed Sherman's lack of straight-line speed -- and Seattle's occasional inability to pressure Kaepernick. Those crossing plays take time to develop.

Andrew Healy: Those deep crosses are the same play that Dallas and St. Louis burned Seattle with earlier in the year. Can be a weak spot with their scheme.

Vince Verhei: Your point stands, but in this case these were shallow crosses, 5 to 10 yards downfield.

Andrew Healy: Overall, Seattle still winning the battle with the San Francisco passing game. Early fourth quarter, 49ers are averaging just 4.1 yards per dropback, largely because of five sacks.

Aaron Schatz: Fourth-and-4, last chance for the 49ers. Seahawks rushed three. Pocket holds up fine. Karpernick leaves the pocket anyway, scrambles around, rolls left, and then throws against his body. Essentially threw it away. On fourth-and-4. Everything wrong with Kaepernick right now, summarized on one play.

Vince Verhei: It's very, very hard to pick out individual offensive linemen who have a good day, but guys who have lousy days are easy to spot. And J.R. Sweezy had a lousy, lousy day for Seattle.

Seahawks got what turned out to be the clinching touchdown after a roughing the passer call that was so bad, Seattle's own radio guys (KJR, not KIRO, which carries the games) were complaining about it afterwards. So there's no question that the close calls went Seattle's way today. That said, even after that touchdown, the 49ers were down ten with more than 13 minutes to go, still a very winnable game. Then, with Frank Gore out with a concussion and Carlos Hyde out with a foot or ankle injury, and precious time ticking away, they began to kill clock, taking 14 plays and nearly eight minutes to go just 55 yards, a drive that ended with a failed fourth-down play on the Seattle 38-yard line. On that drive, Kaepernick had four passes and four runs. On third-and-2 and then fourth-and-1, with their season on the line, they took the ball out of Kaepernick's hands and went with Alfonso Smith, then Bruce Miller. Both runs failed. That was really the moment that ended the game.

San Francisco had the ball four times in the second half, gaining 64 total yards with no points. In their last four games, against teams that now have a combined record of 34-23, the Seahawks are undefeated and have given up 27 points. Not per game. Total. I know that's a case of mix-and-matching various stats with some random endpoints, but the defense really has come together at the most critical point of the season.

Scott Kacsmar: Credit Chris Wesseling (NFL.com) for bringing this up on Twitter, but as far as I can tell, the Seahawks have an NFL record: holding a lead in 51 consecutive games (including playoffs). That's the entirety of the Russell Wilson era. I know I've written about their streak of games being at least within one score in the fourth quarter, but this might be even more impressive given the length of the other streaks.

Dallas Cowboys 38 at Philadelphia Eagles 27

Tom Gower: Great start for the Cowboys, thanks to the unforced error and moving the ball unlike they did on Thanksgiving. In case you've missed it, Dez Bryant is really, really good and has an individual matchup edge on both of the Philadelphia corners, as he has shown on his two touchdowns. Then Mark Sanchez calmed down a little bit and the Eagles realized they were playing the Cowboys defense, so we may be getting a game of things in this second half.

Also, Fletcher Cox is having another really strong game.

Cian Fahey: Brandon Carr has been nothing short of awful in Dallas since he signed that huge contract in free agency. He is owed a huge amount of money over the coming three years also, with significant dead money if cut. Cowboys appear to be stuck with him, while Morris Claiborne comes back from a torn ACL. Cowboys defense will probably struggle for a while to come.

Aaron Schatz: Speaking of which, the Eagles have to stop asking Bradley Fletcher to do things he can't do. I feel like it is really unfair for Fletcher to get this rep for being one of the worst corners in the league. He's an average corner who looks a lot worse because the Eagles keep asking him to cover guys like Dez Bryant and Jordy Nelson one-on-one.

Cian Fahey: Well, it's either him or Carey Williams who has to do it.

The officiating of the Eagles defensive backs has been huge in this game. They were allowed to be do a lot to Bryant in the previous matchup, but have been penalized for contact in this game. It's given Bryant more freedom in his routes.

Andrew Healy: This has been a crazy game. After 24 straight points for the Eagles, now 14 straight for Dallas to go back up 35-24. Early fourth quarter, the Eagles are driving after a gift 44-yard gain to Josh Huff on a short pass with bad angles and poor tackling.

Mark Sanchez still sucks, just a little less than he did with the Jets. Amazing that the Eagles have managed to keep winning with the No. 27 quarterback by DVOA. But Chip Kelly can only paper over so many warts. Their drive stalls when Sanchez airmails a yawningly-wide-open Brent Celek on second down, and then when Sanchez throws a 6-yard pass on third-and-9 to a blanketed receiver. Sanchez did this multiple times against the Seahawks last week when the All-22 showed wide-open receivers open beyond the sticks.

Mike Kurtz: I want to see Dallas' success rate/DVOA on first-down runs tonight. Seems like every first down they're trying an interior run and it goes absolutely nowhere.

Vince Verhei: Dallas ran 25 times on first down Sunday night, gaining 50 yards with a Success Rate of 32 percent. Twelve of those carries were stuffed for no gain or a loss.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 15 Dec 2014

239 comments, Last at 17 Dec 2014, 11:58pm by beargoggles


by big10freak :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:49am

Acknowledging that the Buffalo defense is very, very good Green Bay lost yesterday because Rodgers was off all day, the receivers chipped in with 6-7 drops and the special teams gave up a TD and field position.

The Packers offensive line was very good. One can nitpick the Packers defense but the squad gave up 12 points on the road. You do that with the typical GB offense and that is plenty good enough.

Why GB didn't try and run more frequently given Rodgers struggles is a bit curious.

Buffalo had shots at two more interceptions as Rodgers was regularly throwing behind guys giving the coverage a chance in trail position. Or he was throwing high and balls were getting tipped.

Really, GB had plenty of chances to win the game and just did everything possible to lose it.

I know Mike McCArthy was steaming about hte lack of defensive holding calls against the Bills but it was going both ways. GB does a poor job of adjusting to when games are called in that fashion. They were griping pretty much into the fourth quarter versus trying to do things differently.

by Mike W :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:29pm

That points up the biggest problem with the NFL. I agree GB should have won the game easily despite the way the game was called. But the larger point, that there is still a wide variance in how games are called in the defensive backfield, is a huge problem for the NFL and they simply don't seem to care enough to actually address it. They make it a point of emphasis in the preseason and then there is backsliding during the season to the point where it's essentially back to near where it was in the previous year. Guys and teams and coaches with better reps get away with more, different crews have different approaches, etc.

Does the NFL want to be given the same lack of respect as the NBA? Is that the plan?

All referees have to do is be vigilant about calling holds. They don't have to call it every play. They only have to call it until the defenders stop doing it. But they have to stick to it, and they seem incapable of doing so. The plan for the NFL, then, seems to be to occasionally make a gesture in that direction so they can be seen to be doing something. Either they know it's a temporary measure, or they don't. Either way, it's clearly inadequate and the league isn't serious about dealing with it.

I wonder if they feel that, since they are committed to protecting QBs, this is the only way to keep scoring even remotely in control, so they are more or less fine with the game-within-the-game of DBs getting away with holding and DPI. Still, they should try to find a way to make the amount of crap going on more regular and predictable.

by D2K :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:36pm

You sound like every Bills fan on the internetz last week after the Bills played on the road in Denver. It is funny reading it from a fan of another teams perspective.

IMO, the game that was called yesterday in Buffalo should be the standard bearer for NFL officiating.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:51pm

Nah. I watched that when Al Harris and Charles Woodson would maul guys and that's not good for the game if you are going to let a guy just grab jersey and hang on for dear life or jump on his back and ride him as the ball is arriving.

You can play defense with some hand checking but not impairing a receivers ability to do his job.

I would appreciate the response not being twisted into me complaining on the bills defense. Note that I stressed several times the Packers should have adjusted.

Just that I think the game can have good defense played without someone being allowed to hinder another player's ability to do the basics of his position.

by D2K :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:01pm

I disagree with you with the way that the game was called and I think that you may be over dramatizing what exactly happened yesterday. Regardless, its all immaterial as I was responding to "Mike W" with the comment that you are attacking.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:05pm

I was referencing how Al Harris would play the corner position. Al Harris, former Green Bay defensive back.

And I am not 'attacking' anything.

by D2K :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:08pm

Oh I know Al Harris and I am familiar with the way that he played CB.

Anyway, I misinterpreted your post and for that I offer a *handshake*

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:38pm

Ever since the Viking game Green Bay has seen opponent defensive backs get more physical and not seen many flags thrown.

Why Mike and his coaching staff refuse to adjust surprises me. Especially when Lacy is just killing it in the running game.

by D2K :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:56pm

I have a theory that may or may not get criticized regarding exactly what McCarthys problem is.

If the Bills/Packers game was a prime time game I can almost guarantee that the Packers would have benefited from the amount of contact that the Bills defenders were giving the Packer receivers, but because it was a Sunday afternoon game at 1:00 pm and was buried behind that wonderfully competitive Browns/Bengals/Manziel first start game, the officials were calling the game more in line with the way football games should be called.

Now, my theory with McCarthy is, that his team has played in prime time five times this season and in those games he was probably getting those calls against his receivers because the NFL wants to make sure that during Nationally televised games, especially those in prime time, that the OFFENSES run the show and that points are scored at will. So he probably felt like the game was being called more "loose" than games that he has, at least recently been a part of.

Again, I think the game was called exactly how NFL games should be called, but I fear that the game was only called that way because it of where it was placed in the hierarchy of games yesterday.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:08pm

In the game against New England Jordy Nelson was shoved off his feet in the back of the end zone and no flag was thrown. Other Packer fans more tech savvy could provide a number of gifs, etc showing Packer receivers being roughed up in several games in November and last week.

Again, the problem I have is that McCarthy has now seen it multiple games in a row and just keeps griping. Versus, you know, adjusting his plan.

It's not like the Packers defensive backs are not taking advantage of the change.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:21pm

I mean, McCarthy is making adjustments to the passing game based on the press man coverage—Cobb in the backfield, rubs/picks, inside breaking routes at different levels. They just didn't execute yesterday. Also, putting Cobb in the backfield to jumpstart the passing game takes Lacy off the field and puts some combination of Adams/Boykin/Quarless on the field at WR, who all have not played well the past two weeks... overall I agree with you. Banging Lacy straight ahead was probably the better option yesterday.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:27pm

At minimum it forces Buffalo to maybe have guys creep in a step and hesitate a moment before going into pass defense mode

It's pretty amazing given the defense what GB was able to do running the ball. That this wasn't leveraged more frequently is disappointing.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:41pm

It wasn't really *that* amazing - for two weeks now, the Bills have been defending the opponent's strength and only leaving six guys in the box for a lot of plays. It almost worked against Denver, and it did work yesterday.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:04pm

Wow, you think GB should have gotten more calls in the NE game? There were no less than half a dozen obvious push offs, including one where the receiver literally threw the DB to the ground 10 feet in front of a ref, and none were called. If everything were called by the book in that game, it would absolutely have favored the Patriots.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:13pm

I did not. I merely mentioned that GB fans were distributing images/gifs of alleged holding and interference calls.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:44pm

OK. FWIW, while I thought Adams throwing Dennard to the turf was too egregious to let slide, I didn't have a problem with the way the game was otherwise officiated. I prefer when some hand fighting is allowed.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:12pm

In the New England game Browner got two quick flags in the first quarter, I remember thinking that might be the officials sending a message to him. New England still did well in press coverage on the outside receivers on the day, particularly in the second half, and I don't remember thinking there were any egregious no-calls. It wasn't a factor in the Atlanta game. Part of it comes down to execution by the quarterback and receivers, which was simply poor yesterday.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:35pm

Brandon Browner gets two flags every game, so I wouldn't read much into it. He's leading the NFL in penalties despite missing the first 6 weeks of the season.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:43pm

Only on games played on days ending in 'y'.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:38pm


I wrote above there was an obvious shove against Nelson in the end zone and several other clear non-calls that if the Packers had lost the game Green Bay (or at least their fan base) would have been griping about at length.

Since GB won, minimal complaining.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:06pm

That's fair, I don't remember that play and the Packers having won the game might be part of it. We'll certainly see if Detroit feels emboldened to come out physical in Week 17. (I don't expect it from Lovie next week, but who knows.)

One thing pointing out though is the fact that the Packers worst passing performances this season—Seattle, Detroit, Buffalo, stretches of the Miami game—have rather logically come against the teams with the best pass defenses, on the road too. Nelson and Cobb (remember how Cobb wasn't getting open in the first two games?) aren't going to be open every play against good coverage, Rodgers needs to be more on point, and Adams, Quarless and company need to play like they did vs. NE.

by nat :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:17pm

Was that one of those plays where Rodgers had left the pocket, as he often does? Because, you know, shoving a receiver is only illegal contact if the QB stays in the pocket. If the QB roams, shoving the receiver is just smart play.

by johonny :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:49am

Mia/NE To quote General Zod in Superman II "Is there no one on this planet to even challenge me?" In the AFCleast the answer is no. Even when it has "good" teams the Pats win this stinker of a division in a walk over. Let me be the first to congratulate the Patriots for winning the 2015 (not a typo) AFCleast crown. A full year plus out might feel to soon to call it but I'm going on a limb and calling it now. I spent the 4th quarter of this laugher walking home wonder who would coach Miami next season. I concluded I don't care. It is clear the current coaching staff doesn't care, the players don't care, the owner doesn't care, and the NFL doesn't care that the AFCleast is a totally non-competitive division for over a decade. The only Franchise that cares is in New England and it shows season after season. So why do I care? The Patriots will win the AFCleast next year no matter what the other three poorly run franchises do this offseason. We all know it. Sure there's a glimmer of hope the new Bills owners aren't complete idiots, but we thought that of Stephen Ross a few years back too. Why pretend? There is no hope.

by D2K :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:24pm

Buffalo is 4-0 against the NFC North this year and that is a division that boasts two ten win teams, one of which is a Super Bowl favorite. They also crushed the Jets twice, and beat the Dolphins by 19 before losing on a Thursday Night game in Miami (where road teams always struggle on the short week when having to travel).

If the Bills could get league average QB play, they could unseat New England next year and I have no doubt about that.

Miami are paper tigers and the Jets are a mess I will give you that, but the Bills are very much in the thick of the AFC East for the foreseeable future.

by TecmoBoso :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:27pm

Since 2001:
If [insert AFC East team] gets a quarterback, watch out Patriots, [insert AFC East team] is going to make a run at New England!

Anyway, who is that QB going to be? Not coming from the draft. Nothing in free agency. A trade is possible, but who will be out there? Maybe Cutler?

by D2K :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:05pm

"Anyway, who is that QB going to be?"

And there is the problem. I agree with you on that 100%.

Cutler, I think could give this team the league average Qb play necessary to take the division. With that said, you cant afford Cutler while keeping the defense intact.

The only option is developing Manuel. A mighty task, but not something that I believe is impossible.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:04am

If they were smart, they'd go after foles. Unlike cutler, he's going to be available for peanuts, and he's got an ability to push the ball down the field unlike all of those cut-rate guys that will also be on the market like Sanchez, Cousins and Orton. If he performs somewhere between his 2013 and his 2014 level, it'll be a top 8 qb to be gotten for a 3rd rounder (or less, if the eagles manage the situation as well as they did with djax.)

by SmoothLikeIce :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:27pm

Other than that though, how was your Sunday?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:28pm

If Buffalo somehow acquires an above-average quarterback next year, the rest of their team is good enough to at least challenge New England, the way Detroit is challenging Green Bay right now. But just like the Packers will probably still likely win the NFC North, the Patriots will still likely keep winning the AFCE until Brady retires. It just wouldn't be quite as easy as you're making it out to be.

And that Miami-NE game was like a microcosm of Miami's season. Impressive early on, looked like they could play with the big boys, and then totally fell apart down the stretch.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:13pm

I genuinely did a double-take when I saw Detroit ahead of Green Bay in the standings after yesterday. Being aware of the general narrative, but not following the division closely it seemed Green Bay were fast-tracked for the no.1 seed. Now they must win both remaining games just to clinch the division.

That's the beauty of a 16 game season; almost every game is critical and a strong team can lose out to (with due respect to Detroit) a slightly weaker one.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:59pm

Thanks Buffalo! Consider beating the Packers payment for letting you borrow our stadium during the snowpocalypse...

All kidding aside, the general narrative was probably justified given how well Green Bay has been playing lately. I'll consider this a successful season simply from the fact that the Lions will likely make the playoffs and at least made the Packers sweat a little to win the division (when you're a Lions fan, your baseline standards are low).

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:49pm

I wish you'd told Rex Ryan that the Jets weren't ever supposed to be competitive before his Jets beat the Pats in the playoffs.

I know the Jets are dismal right now, but both the Dolphins and Bills are good teams. And yes, both need better QB play. The Dolphins in particular have lost too many close games this season. Better QB play would get them over that hump. Buffalo hasn't had a scary QB since Jim Kelly lost his arm strength. And aside from some brief moments with weak-armed Chad Pennington, Miami hasn't had a scary QB since Marino.

As for the Jets...we might have to go back to Broadway Joe, though Testaverde and strong-armed Chad Pennington had some good seasons.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:10pm

Didn't Ken O'Brien and Richard Todd have a few good seasons between them?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:43pm

I'd say both Todd and O'Brien had some serviceable moments, but neither really did all that much in the big picture. O'Brien was actually very good in his first full season, but he regressed after that. He also got sacked a lot. Todd was a notch below O'Brien. Led the league in INTs one season.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:58pm

I think you need to swap out regressed with beaten up in that sentence. Really, the issue with the Jets isn't their lack of franchise quarterbacks, it's their inability to keep them healthy through either luck or their own mismanagement. Keep O'Brien or Pennington healthy 8-10 years, and that team is probably making the playoffs most of those years.

by Led :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:16pm

Agreed. O'Brien was a good QB who had the misfortune of being drafted by the Jets before Marino was drafted by the Dolphins. Comparing the career of "Marino on the Dolphins" to the career of "O'Brien on the Jets" is always going to be unfair to Kenny O.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:42pm

Comparing them is fine. Not remembering that the Chiefs drafted Todd Blackledge before every quarterback in that draft but Elway is not. It seems only Chiefs remember that, but everyone wants to pummel the Jets for taking O'Brien. He was basically the same quarterback as Phil Simms, but the Giants built an offensive line around Simms and the Jets traded Marvin Powell to the Bucs for some reason. People also forget how bad Marino's senior year was, if he was coming out now with the same senior year stats he wouldn't get drafted that early either.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 9:05pm

Hey, Blackledge turned into a very good color guy....so there's that.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:13pm

Buffalo hasn't had a scary QB since Jim Kelly lost his arm strength.

Since after the first 8 or so games of the Bledsoe regime, rather.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:37pm

Bledsoe only scared me when he was on the Pats and got that wild look in his eye. (I say that as a Patriots' fan.)

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:44pm

That Bills team *was* scary at the beginning of the season. By the end, well, they made Peerless Price a lot of money.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:58pm

In the first 9 games Bledsoe threw for 2802 yards (he finished the season with 4359) and 17 TD (finished with 24) against 6 interceptions (he finished with 15).

And even with that second-half fade, it was still Bledsoe's second-best QB rating season and second best yardage season.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:23pm

I think the QB situations in Buffalo and Miami are vastly different. In Buffalo, a simple substitution of an above-average QB for what they currently have would make them division title contenders. In Miami, I think Tannehill is already above-average (DVOA agrees) and has the potential to be very good, and what they need is receivers and a couple of OL pieces and better coaching.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:56pm

You mean the division that went into week 15 with three teams in the top 10 in DVOA, the only one in the entire league?

Or are you just venting that your team is in 3rd place in a division that only has two teams in the top 15?

Yes, I'm mostly trolling, but the complaint about NE being the product of an easy division is mostly misguided. It's more a complaint about the Patriots being too good than it is that the division is bad.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:11pm

Reading the original comment, I thought he was an insane cocky Pats fan instead of a depressed Dolphins fan.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:42pm

Isn't johonny a Ravens fan? Am I confused again?

by CaffeineMan :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:48pm

I believe johonny is a (depressed) Dolphins fan.

I believe you're thinking of jonnyblazin' who is a Ravens fan.

Both have been around here for a while.

And yes, I took johonny's comment as a wail of despair, rather than serious commentary on the strength of the AFC East.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:53pm

Mea Culpa, then johonny. Just ignore my earlier post. ;-)

by jebmak :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:08am


Pretty sure that according to DVOA the AFC East is the best division in the league. Nice try though.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:17pm

The AFC East has always been solid in that it has the Patriots and at least two teams that are slightly above average. Statistics can be used to manipulate facts and anyone arguing that the Patriots have played in a competitive division over the last 14 years is manipulating facts. In the BB/TB era, the division has not been competitive because none of the other teams have flirted with being elite.

Between 2001 and 2014 every team in the AFC West has been good enough to earn the conference #1 seed. In the AFC North, Baltimore and Pittsburgh have been very good, and even Cincy has been competitive. The Patriots have not had to seriously compete in their division because there has not been a quality QB to compete against.

by Alternator :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:23pm

By that definition, if a far-and-away #2 team played in a division with the #5, #6, and #7 teams, it would not be a competitive division.

So...yeah, sure, technically correct, but completely meaningless.

by CaffeineMan :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 1:17am


by DEW :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:50am

I feel kind of smug, because when I watched the replay of the Griffin non-TD, I saw him lose the ball when JPP smacked it and said, "You know, if he lost it there, then that's a fumble, and since he dropped it when he hit the ground, it's not a clean recovery and it'll be a touchback." Won a high-five from my wife when the refs came back. Weird, weird play that needed to be seen in slo-mo to track the series of events properly.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:25pm

Touchback (and more importantly change of possession) for a fumble that goes out through the endzone has always seemed a massively harsh penalty when you consider that it the ball goes out on the 1-yd line the offense retains possession.

Remember it happening to Denver in the 2005 playoff game aganst New England where the DB returned the ball the length of the field but had it knocked out for a fumble. Huge controversy over whether it goes out through the endzone or at the 1-yd line.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:51pm

That was Champ Bailey, right? The refs gave him the TD, IIRC.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:15pm

Triplette (figures!) failed preschool physics and geometry and ruled the ball went OOB at the 1 rather than going through the EZ.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:30pm

They ruled him out at the 1 and Denver scored on the next play.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:56pm

I've always thought a fumble through the end zone should just go back to the offense at the spot of the fumble. Sure, the offense didn't recover it, but the defense didn't either. It is very odd to me that the end zone is treated so differently than the sideline on fumbles.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:12pm

Agree completely. I understand that they cannot give the offense the TD, but it makes no sense to give the ball to the defense.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:22pm

So does anyone understand the logic or rationale behind why it changes possession just because it happens to be 1 yard further on?

by Led :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:53pm

A fumble is a live ball just like a kickoff (that goes more than 10 yards) and therefore should be treated the same way when it goes OOB in the endzone. It's not a question of changing possession because once a ball is live neither team has possession.

I don't think that's a particularly good rationale, but there is a logic to it.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:16pm

Kick-offs that go out of bounds don't go to the kicking team at the spot of the kick, or where they went out of bounds. So it's not exactly consistent, but it could be the thinking.

by Never Surrender :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:20pm

Here's my best guess (I don't have access to resources that would let me confirm it at the moment):

The logic and rationale goes back to when American football and rugby shared largely the same ruleset. In rugby, if you go out of bounds with the ball anywhere on the field, including the endzone, it's a turnover and the other team gets to put the ball back in play. Same thing if you fumble and it goes out of bounds, including in the end zone.

American football evolved from this ruleset originally and brought most out-of-bounds instances into alignment with the principle that the last team who had possession of the ball keeps it, whether a loose ball or when carried by a player.

But this one exception stuck around as just that: an exception to the other rule changes. It wasn't dreamed up as a special punishment for teams that fumble near the goal line.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:18pm

This would make sense if it can be confirmed. Still seems arbitrarily negative for the offense. Sort of like if knocking an attempted pass down on the field was just incomplete, but knocking it down in the end zone was a turnover.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 9:06pm

That's really not a great analogy. Fumbling means you lose possession of the ball. The rules are kind to the offense, insofar as when the offense fumbles out of bounds most the times they get to retain it. But the rules also punish a fumbling team occasionally, when it happens to go out of the end zone.

If anything, the rules should be changed so that any fumble out of bounds results in a coin flip which determines which team gets possession. But I like the rules as they are.

by dbostedo :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 10:56pm

"If anything, the rules should be changed so that any fumble out of bounds results in a coin flip which determines which team gets possession."

Yeah... that actually would be technically fair (the best kind of fair!). I guess because of the current out-of-bounds rule, I don't really intuitively think of a fumble as a loss of possession unless the defense recovers it. That's why it "feels" like fumbling out of the end zone is currently very unfair to the offense - I think they still have the ball unless the defense recovers.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:39pm

The logic is a lot of football rules are very old and no one has since systematically gone through them an removed the illogical ones :)

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:15pm

"It is very odd to me that the end zone is treated so differently than the sideline on fumbles."

Funny how that works. If you cross the end zone with the ball, you get 6 points, if you don't, you get 0 points. It turns out that weird things happen in that area.

It's best to think of the end zone as a magical place where the rules that govern the 100 yards separating the 2 end zones don't apply. It works that way when teams possess the ball as well as with fumbles.

I, for one, think it is perfectly fine to have a rule that doesn't favor the offense for once.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:23pm

I second this. How about not fumbling the ball out of the endzone?

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 5:01pm

At least it's not as crazy as the Zone in Stalker and Roadside Picnic. If you walk backwards a certain way, you get the magic orb that offers everything, including multiple touchdowns. Take a wrong step in the end zone, not only are you ruled out of bounds, your entire body gets turned inside out. We really need football played under Strugatsky brothers rules.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 5:19pm

Sure, that sounds great, but then you have Jeff Triplette trying to call a game where parts of the field are five-dimensional subspaces operating under differing laws of neo-Euclidean physics, and good luck getting an accurate ball spot with that.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 9:36pm

In Strugatski-space Football, Jeff Triplette vanishes the instant he starts talking on the field.

by JFP :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 6:57pm

Remember it happening to Denver in the 2005 playoff game aganst New England where the DB returned the ball the length of the field but had it knocked out for a fumble. Huge controversy over whether it goes out through the endzone or at the 1-yd line.

Credit to Ben Watson for one of the most incredible plays I've ever seen. Came from the other side of the field, and had to avoid the ref, to chase down Champ Bailey.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 9:11pm

People have completely different views on the out of the endzone fumble and they are hardcore on their views (I on the touchback side). Along with religion, politics and sex, the out of endzone fumble are 4 things you don't bring up at cocktail parties.

by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:27pm

That was an amazing play by Watson. Refs didn't expect it and IMO blew the call.

Touchback on Offense fumble out of bounds in end zone seems like the only reasonable way to do it. Give it to the offense? Why, and more importantly, where?

Solution for the offense: don't fumble...

by PatsFan :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 10:27am

It was Triplette. Of course the call was blown.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:54am

Manziel just doesn't look to have the arm strength to make the throws an NFL qb needs to make to keep a starting job.

That and everything else about his mechanics were poor. I take it that practice is not something the Browns encourage? Or the coaching staff is not equipped to help a guy improve his mechanics?

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:38pm

He could get away with mediocre arm strength if he either had great anticipation, like Philip Rivers, or good mechanics, like Chad Pennington. But the combination of mediocre strength, poor anticipation, and terrible mechanics won't play.

It appears that Kyle Shanahan's weakness may be in teaching QB mechanics. He appeared to be rather innovative strategically when he was in Washington, but RG3's mechanics went backwards while he was there (although that might be due to injury). Likewise, in Cleveland Hoyer appears to have regressed mechanically, and it's clear that Manziel is nowhere close to prepared on that front.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:43pm

From what I've seen, all he practiced was making margaritas.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 9:13pm

Didn't he do fairly well at the combine at throwing measurables?

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:55am

Notice that in typical incompetent Triplette fashion it took him three tries to actually manage to throw his penalty flag. At least he didn't blind anyone with it.

It's also amazing he got the call right, because Triplette.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:55am

The Jets-Titans game was like that episode of South Park where the boys were trying to lose all of their Little League games only to find out the kids on the other teams wanted to lose more.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:08pm

Since 1999, list of QBs who have starts with under 100 yards, adjusted yards per attempt under 4 and two interceptions:...Mike Kafka

Mike Kafka never started a game in his NFL career - his terrible game came in 2011 against the Giants when he replaced an injured Michael Vick in the 4th quarter.

The list is also incomplete- Geno Smith's 2/8, 5 yard, 3 interception start against the Bills this year isn't included, nor is Rex Grossman's 2/12, 33 yard, 3 interception start against the Packers in 2006, unless 3+ interception games were excluded. (There may be others.)

by beargoggles :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:40am

New meaning for "Kafkaesque." I like it.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:05pm

Derek Anderson should have figured out long ago a way to be traded to whatever team plays Tampa that week. Would pretty much be an eventual ticket to Canton.

Games remaining vs. an incredibly pissed-off Green Bay, and New Orleans with what could very well be a division title on the line. LOSE GUYS KEEP LOSING.

by Led :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:07pm

In Titans/Jets, the safety was the result the following weird series of events: (1) Geno Smith awkwardly "threw" the ball forward trying to avoid the sack and safety; (2) the refs ruled it incorrectly as a fumble (which was a terrible call, but whatever); (3) when the Titans challenge the call, the ref announce that if it HAD been a forward pass it would have been intentional grounding (i.e., the rarely seen subjunctive ruling); (4) after replay review, the ref ruled that it was a forward pass and retroactively calls the intentional grounding penalty and, thus, safety.

A few minutes later the never-informative Mike Carey gets on for CBS and says that whether a play is intentional grounding is not reviewable on replay and therefore the refs should not called the penalty retroactively. Although Carey is, indeed, never informative, that lined up with my understanding of the rules and what I said to my kids right after the ruling. Then we hear from the announcers that Dean Blandino, head of the NFL Officiating Ministry of Truth, tweeted that the post-replay penalty was actually correct because when the ref announces pre-replay review that it would have been intentional grounding in an alternate universe where the refs correctly ruled it a pass, the refs can assess the penalty retroactively after replay review. That sounded to me like made-up-on-the-spot BS to rationalize the ruling. Has anyone ever heard anything like that before?

By the way, the result was absolutely the call that should have been made on the field so I wasn't too upset about it (and it was Titans/Jets after all!) but the whole thing still seemed a bit Orwellian.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:26pm

You're best off just ignoring Carey - there's a good reason CBS no longer goes to him before the on-field review call is made.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:34pm

This question is hurting my head, but I think Blandino's logic makes sense. Intentional grounding can only occur if a pass was thrown, so if the play was ruled a fumble on the field, there's no way that the officials could have called intentional grounding except via replay. It seems silly to give the offense a pass from the intentional grounding penalty just because the play was originally ruled a fumble.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:46pm

Yeah, I saw something like that in I believe the Gopher Badger game. Granted it was college, but essentially the review clarifies a fact of the play. The officials always have until the next play to make a call of a penalty on a play. So once the fact that it was a pass has been adjudicated they can call a penalty based on that.

by apk3000 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:52pm

So if I understood the sequence right, the ref announced that if it was an incomplete pass, then there was intentional grounding before he checked the replay? That seems right, you can't use replay to discover penalties, but if you would've thrown the flag if the play had been interpreted another way, you can enforce it.

by Led :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:08pm

But if you thought it was a fumble until you saw the replay, you are still "discovering" the penalty via replay because there's no penalty until you discover it wasn't a fumble. However you slice it, this is an exception to the general rule that you can't impose a penalty via replay review. It's a very sensible exception, but the NFL ought to just treat it as an exception without recourse to the weird subjunctive aspect to it where the ref gives an advisory opinion about a hypothetical penalty before viewing the replay. Besides, if the ref immediately concludes it's a fumble, then he shouldn't be looking to see whether there's a receiver in the area -- he's should be looking to see who gets possession of the ball. Why should we rely on his pre-replay, on-the-field judgment about something that he would not have been focusing on because it wasn't necessary to officiate the play? Just look at the replay. (Again, the result here was sensible, so this objection is somewhat theoretical, but you can imagine much closer cases.)

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:05pm

You aren't discovering anything other than the fact that a pass was thrown. Once that is discovered you can call penalties based on how the play actually occurred. THey knew where it landed and where it was fumbled from, they can then adjudicate the play. They almost always discuss before they throw grounding penalties anyway, so they discuss and throw a flag.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:11pm

I'm consistently impressed by Mike Pereira's ability to clearly explain difficult or questionable calls. He adds more value to Fox's broadcasts than anyone else. I would think that this kind of thing would be second nature to a former official, but Mike Carey constantly proves that notion wrong, which makes me appreciate Pereira even more.

by DEW :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:17pm

What amazes me about Carey is that when he was an actual official, he was one of the better ones out there, leagues better than a Triplette or a Bogar. Yet as a studio officiating analyst with the benefit of the best possible replay information, he's both generally uninformative and often outright wrong.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:30pm

Anyone else feel like he's just super nervous on TV? Seems to have the deer in the headlights look constantly.

by Travis :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:55pm

ESPN employs David Cutaia, who made the worst call in recent college football history, as its rules expert during college games, so I guess CBS could theoretically do worse.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:20pm

Seems obligatory at this point to mention Matt Millen is paid presumably a healthy sum of money to try to sound smart about football.

by Pottsville Maro... :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:50pm

Still the most inexplicable call in the history of football. There were multiple facets of the play, each one of which, by itself, clearly indicated that it should be Oklahoma's ball. Oklahoma's #23 comes out of the pile holding the ball!

by Karl Cuba :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:42pm

Really? I'm usually more surprised by the amount of stuff Pereira gets wrong.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 9:19pm

The amazing thing is that Mike Pereira was only a field judge and for only two seasons.Who was his Head Official/boss? Mike Carey.
And now Mike Carey can't hold his jockstrap.

by jacobk :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:27pm

I'm sure Green Bay has a home/road split, but I suspect the Falcons/Bills split on defense is a bigger deal.

by Temo :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:34pm

So I've been watching Mark Sanchez for quite a few years now and I don't think I've ever seen a quarterback as streaky/rhythm reliant as he is.

His confidence, awareness, and accuracy all seem to come and go on a drive by drive basis. One drive he'll be nailing all his throws and get the ball out quickly, the next he'll pump fake 3 times and take a horrible "coverage sack", or air mail a throw.

Usually it seems like when he loses that rhythm, he doesn't get it back.

by Julio :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:35pm

As I've tried to point out here, the home/road splits must be
accounted for. Rodgers is a different and worse QB on the road,
so is his team. Pats would have beaten GB at home.


by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:04pm

This year HFA is critically important, especially for GB and DEN who matchup poorly against their likely conference championship opponents, (SEA, NE) especially on the road. A DEN-NE conference championship game is probably a 60% win for Denver in Colorado, but a 90% Denver loss in Foxboro. A GB Seattle Championship game probably has similar winning percentages based on HFA.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:21pm

90%? Seems high.

I do agree that it is probably more important for DEN and GB to get HFA, but I think that number is a little high.

Also, if I'm Denver, I really like the way the seedings are shaping up outside of NE being the #1. I think the least threatening of all teams that could go on the road in Rd. 2 (outside of Cincinnati) is Indianapolis, who if they win just one game and Cincy doesn't win out, will be the #3 seed and go to Denver with a win in Wild Card Weekend.

If I'm Denver, I hope it ends up with Indy coming to me and Baltimore going to New England, and just hope the Ravens do to the Pats what they did in 2009 and 2012 (and almost 2011).

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:33pm

Perhaps 90% is high, but given Peyton's history in Foxboro, his decline in arm strength, and the BB v Fox coaching advantage..... not by much. As a Bronco fan it kills me, and the improved running game and defense give me hope, but the aforementioned factors above seem very powerful.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:03pm

My impression was that the Brady-Manning matchup usually goes to the home team, but that's more of a feature of recent years. In their first ten matchups, the home teams went 5-5. Since then (6 more games), the home team has won each time, twice when Manning was with the Colts and 4 times with the Broncos.

Historically, Denver is the absolutely worst road trip for the Patriots. That's an old fact that pre-dates Elway's arrival. Since moving to Mile High, the Broncos are 16-3 at home against the Patriots. The Pats really don't want to lose HFA.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:25pm

90% is ridiculous. The Pats are barely 90% to win at home to the Jets.

I don't see why HFA should be particularly important this year. Of course it is important every year, but as Aaron repeatedly points out, there is little evidence to suggest any team enjoys a particularly strong HFA over the long term. As evidenced by the Saints this season.

by Anonymouse :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 6:17pm

As a Pats fan, I'd rather play on the road in Denver with the current roster than at home against Denver with the roster that played in last season's AFC Championship Game. I think a Denver fan may actually make that same argument. To me, health is more important than home-field, although obviously I'd like both.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 6:40pm

Last year the AFC was a battle of attrition, as Denver and New England were almost equally battered by injuries.

Denver made it to the SuperBowl without Ryan Clady (an elite LT before injury) and five defensive starters including Von Miller (perhaps 2nd best defensive player in NFL) and Chris Harris (per PFF the 2nd best CB in NFL over last four years). The difference between Denver and NE last year is that the Broncos were better able to compensate for their injuries.

HFA is huge, but health is a much bigger deal.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:10pm

Denver got hit hard, and there is truth to the statement that they were better prepared to handle the injuries, but I'd still give NE a good edge in that department. Wilfork, Gronk, Vollmer almost offset the three you mention, but then there was Kelly, Mayo, Hernandez (who counts since it was after the FA and draft giving NE little recourse) and Thompkins/Dobson. The last two weren't great players but were desperately needed after losing all the other receivers. I'll leave it up to you whether Amendola counts.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:59pm

At least you acknowledge that Denver also had numerous injuries to key players last year. I've heard too many Pats fans say that if they would have been healthy they would have won the AFC last year, but neglect to acknowledge Denver's similar situation. Denver also lost their nickel CB, Webster who was coming on and had a hobbled Champ Bailey who was a total liability in playoffs.

Essentially each team lost three 'A' players, but I acknowledge that New England lost more B & C players than Denver. Both teams had clusters of injuries to specific position groups... Denver in the defensive backfield and NE to the front 7.

Hopefully this season, each team is as healthy as can be (although I secretly hope DEN is injured less)...

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 9:03pm

I think the biggest injury was Welker taking out Talib in the first quarter. It was over at that moment.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 9:26pm

When NE lost their 2nd best player (Gronk) last year it was over for them. Gronk hast not been healthy for a full post season in 4 years. My personal feeling is that, if he's healthy this postseason then NE will be very, very tough to beat.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:06pm

I think that's what the DEN fans are getting at. They lost their 2nd and 3rd best players (Von & Clady), and still made the Super Bowl. Some of that gets to the weakness of the AFC in general I guess. Those absences (particularly Clady) really showed up in February.

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 1:52pm

Is Clady really a top 3 player for the Broncos? Maybe you might have thought that at the beginning of the year, but it seems to me that the two Thomases are better and more important to the offense.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 5:50pm

Going into 2013, I think definitely. That Super Bowl would have been closer with DT out and Clady being able to protect Manning better.

I don't think Clady is fully healthy this year, but he was a monster heading into 2013.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:15pm


Profootballreference has home/road splits for players including quarterbacks

I know passer rating isn't the best measurement but his road rating is 99.8 versus his home rating of 112.2

He has averaged 8 yards an attempt on the road. Thrown 103 TDs and 35 interceptions in 54 games. Completed 64 percent of his passes. His home numbers are certainly better. But from this quick glance that is a pretty good qb.

Rodgers had a terrible game yesterday. He is human. One data point is not a trend.

by coremill :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:04pm

Defenses GB has played on the road, with DVOA rank:

SEA (4), DET (1), CHI (27), MIA (8), NO (31), MINN (17), BUFF (2). Average: 12.9/average DVOA -4.8%.

Defenses GB has played at home, with DVOA rank:

NYJ (21), MINN (17), CAR (19), CHI (27), PHI (7), NE (10), ATL (32). Average: 19/average DVOA +2.9%.

They've had poor road games against Seattle, Detroit, and Buffalo. Those happen to be three of the four best defenses in the league and are far better than anyone they've played at home. That accounts for a lot of the home/road split.

by Julio :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:44pm

You could go around in circles on this stuff all day.
Of course there is no long term HFA, just like there is no long
term winning percentage, everybody tends to .500 over the long term.
But it's quite obvious that some teams some years do especially
poorly on the road, and that makes sense. Some coaches don't bother
to prepare their team for road conditions, other teams have
a lot of young players who aren't used to it, other teams have
a bunch of players who have never done well on the road.
The numbers quoted for the teams GB has played could be spun
the same way, because some of them had weak schedules. NE crushed
Buffalo at Buffalo, NE lost to GB at GB, GB lost at Buffalo, I think
NE beats GB handily at home.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:35pm

But it's quite obvious that some teams some years do especially poorly on the road, and that makes sense.

No, it isn't obvious at all, and nothing historically suggests it's true. Both examples you gave, Green Bay and San Diego, both dealt with differing strengths of schedule, and the only one going in circles trying to argue otherwise is you. I note that San Diego lost another home game while scoring only 10 points; that must mean Denver's offense had a good game, right?

When New Orleans started the season 3-0 at home and 0-4 on the road following a season where they went 8-0 at home and 3-5 on the road, it looked like they were simply a much better home team. They then proceeded to win their next two road games and lose their next four home games.

The numbers quoted for the teams GB has played could be spun the same way, because some of them had weak schedules.

No, they can't, because DVOA already adjusts for strength of schedule.

by Julio :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 9:56pm

Trying to talk on an unmoderated newsgroup is a waste of time but I
will try again.

I didn't mention San Diego in my last post at all. I talked about GB, Buf, and

If DVOA were significantly adjusted for home/road splits, we'd see two entries
for every team. We don't see that. Therefore: no significant adjustment for home/road


by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:13pm

Trying to talk on an unmoderated newsgroup is a waste of time but I will try again.

Because there was something in my post that would have been moderated in such a newsgroup? I notice you didn't bother to respond to any of my points debunking your theory that certain teams clearly play better at home.

I didn't mention San Diego in my last post at all. I talked about GB, Buf, and NE.

You said: "As I've tried to point out here, the home/road splits must be accounted for." The last time you mentioned this, which was in the Week 14 DVOA Ratings thread, you used San Diego as your example.

If DVOA were significantly adjusted for home/road splits, we'd see two entries for every team. We don't see that. Therefore: no significant adjustment for home/road splits.

Why does there need to be two entries? The advantage teams have from playing at home is known, and has remained very constant throughout history. DVOA already accounts for teams playing worse at home than on the road. I believe homefield advantage is about 17% in DVOA, so if you want two numbers, just add 8.5% to the current DVOA rating when a team is at home and subtract it when they're on the road.

by Pen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:02am

And you'll notice that Buffalo was favored over Green Bay when adjusting the 17% DVOA homefield factor into it. Per DVOA, that Bills win wasn't really very unexpected.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:09am

There's nothing special about home/road splits compared to any other split. You could just as easily have night/day, warm/cold, or dry/wet splits. (OK, I guess home/road is a bit better to calculate with because of the perfectly equal sample sizes.) They are all already accounted for in the DVOA numbers because of the various factors and baselines used. (And if they aren't factored, then they haven't been found to be helpful/more predictive.)

Granted, that won't tell you quite how big the home/road split is for a given game, but that's not really the point of DVOA. And as pointed out, there is an average home field adjustment that can be made, just like with point spreads.

by Vincent Verhei :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:36am

This seems like a good time to remind everyone that home/road DVOA splits for every team are available to Premium subscribers.


by Julio :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:10pm

Are you telling me that warm/cold splits wouldn't have had predictive
value when Manning was playing under a dome and had to win in Foxboro
or other cold sites in winter? Of course they would. And of course, for
some teams the temp wouldn't matter. THIS YEAR, GB does not play well
on the road, it's just a fact, but the DVOA here, at least the open access
DVOA doesn't tell you that.


by tuluse :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:46pm

Remember the time the warm weather domed Falcons went to play the cold hardened outdoors Packers.

I seriously doubt any NFL get has a reasonable amount of weather datapoints to draw any conclusions about how they'll perform in various conditions.

by dbostedo :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:57am

"Are you telling me that warm/cold splits wouldn't have had predictive

Nope - just saying that there's no more reason to publish two lists of home/road DVOAs every week than there is to publish any other split. Of course there's value in splits, but I believe many of them are already accounted for in DVOA to give you an overall rating of the team quality.

Applying DVOA to a particular known game moving forward to predict a winner, you would of course have to know the splits that are buried in it in some cases. I'm not sure if that info is available or not.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:02pm

Mike Smith also made a hideous decision to punt the ball away on 4th&2 down 7 with about 5:00 to play. Atlanta never saw the ball again. As frustrating as 4th down strategy generally is in the NFL, it is at its absolute worst when a coach of a shitty defence willingly gives the ball back to a high powered offence.

I thought Denver's run heavy approach of the last two weeks was a factor of playing in KC on a windy night, then facing Buffalo's ferocious pass rush, and fully expected a return to 30+ pass attempts in the benign conditions (and opposing defence) of San Diego. Perhaps Manning's illness dictated matters, but much of yesterday's running was inefficient and served to keep the game closer than it might have been. It will be very interesting to see how it pans out in the playoffs.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:23pm

I was at the DEN-SD game and my son noticed that before the game, Peyton wasn't out throwing early (and he's ALWAYS out there early)...

Sick or not, his passes were floating again. The long pass to Sanders would have been a TD earlier in the year but it hung up almost like a punt, and the DB caught up. It looks like Peyton's lost something with arm strength and going forward is going to need a running game to take pressure off of him and for play action. He also will be counting on his WRs big time to make plays on balls, absorb some hits on his floaters and to play DB.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:32pm

Denver is looking more and more like...'98 Denver. I think they're thinking a few games ahead with the shift to the running game. Peyton was still pretty effective yesterday (10+ YPA).

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:48pm

Not at all... The 98 Denver team flirted with being undefeated and were favorites in every game, including being a 10 pt favorite in the AFC championship game against #2 Jets and 9 pts in SB against ATL.

This year has more of a chance to be like 97, where they started on fire, had a few late season losses that dropped them in eyes of pundits, but got to and the won the SB beating teams that beat and/or embarrassed them in the 96/97 seasons. Hopefully they go on another revenge tour where they can beat The Ravens, Patriots and Seahwaks in route to a SB Championship.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:53pm

I mean in a macro sense: aging superstar QB rides running game and strong defense through to playoff glory. Perhaps a bit simplistic, but I can't help but think Elway put a bug in Fox's ear after that St. Louis game (not that anyone and his mom wouldn't understand that 7 rushing attempts in a game is probably a poor idea).

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:17pm

I agree, #7 definitely stepped in after STL and that changed not only the offense, but made the defense better too, as their new offense is more complimentary to their defense. Savvy move by Elway to re-sign Harris before he could hit the market.

Elway has been great as a GM....

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:29pm

I wonder if Elway had to shudder, though, watching Fox call for FGs at the 2 and 1 yard lines in the first half.

by deus01 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:59pm

Those field goals were all terrible. Even if they failed to score pinning SD inside the 1 would have likely given them good field position on the next possession if not a safety.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:17pm

I think the arm was more a factor of his illness/injury. He was throwing some sharp, good velocity downfield throws against Buffalo (not the two picks, but nice seam throws to Welker and Sanders). That 14/20 looks a whole lot better a week later seeing what Buffalo just did to Green Bay.

by joe_football :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:34pm

They had 3 timeouts and tomlin is really conservative late in games. I expected the steelers to turtle ineffectively and the falcons to get the ball back, but to their credit they passed for several first downs

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:05pm

" it is at its absolute worst when a coach of a shitty defence willingly gives the ball back to a high powered offence."

Ah, but Mike Smith didn't have to deal with the jackals in the media, as Belichick did when he went for it (and failed) on 4th and 2 vs. the Colts several years ago.

by Duff Soviet Union :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:40pm

Smith's decision was absolutely awful. Hey, why give your franchise quarterback and great receivers a chance to make a play when you can turn the game over to the worst defense in the league?

I'm shocked that this is the first criticism of it I've seen. I know that 31 other coaches would do the same in that spot, but that doesn't make it right, especially with this personnel. As soon as it happened, I said "I bet they don't get the ball back again". And they didn't.

by Paul R :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 12:56pm

The announcers at the Jets/Titans "game" pointed out that 11% of the plays were punts.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the average NFL broadcast contains just 11 minutes of action on the field.
Roughly (allowing for hang times) this means the broadcast contained about 9 minutes of incomplete passes and two minutes of punts yesterday.
And the most exciting action--the bench-clearing brawl--occured during a commercial break.

Still, I'm not really complaining. What other opportunity is there to drink beer and eat a whole bag of Doritos in one sitting? "Meet The Press?" I don't think so.

by Guest789 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:04pm

The end of Packers-Bills is a great example of my least favourite thing about the NFL. They have all these random rules that were put in place because of one play that the league didn't like for whatever reason, and the resulting collection is an illogical hodgepodge that takes a PhD to understand. The rulebook needs to be streamlined to about 1/4 of its current length imo.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:56pm

I agree completely.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:30pm

Even after seeing the clip I still don't understand the need for an anti-advancing fumble rule. Was the play too exciting? What advantage did the offense gain? Shouldn't they just have called it a forward pass and called the play dead?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:32pm

It wasn't a forward pass. The QB fumbled the ball before it moved forward at all.

This all goes back to the "Holy Roller" TD that the Raiders scored in the late 1970s. At the end of a game, Ken Stabler fumbled the ball forward to a teammate, who batted it forward to a second teammate, who batted it forward again before recovering it for a TD. They beat the Chargers that way.

Now, there was already a rule against batting the ball forward, but the refs decided that it was not clear that the Raiders had done that intentionally.

At this point, I'll quote from Wikipedia:

However, Stabler's fumble was deliberate. "I fumbled it on purpose,” he said after the game. “Yes, I was trying to fumble.” [3] Banaszak and Casper also admitted that they deliberately batted the ball towards the end zone.[4]

Rather than accept that the officials made a simple mistake, the NFL had to invent a whole new rule as a reaction to this one play. So now, whenever a fumble happens in the last two minutes of a game, no player other than the fumbler is allowed to advance it, no matter where it is recovered.

That the ball might be recovered in the fumbling team's own end zone seems to not have been considered by anyone.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:50pm

Wait, I was referring to the holy roller based on the clip above. Did you think I was referencing Rodgers? No question that was a fumble.

I don't think holy roller or semi-intentional fumble batting should be illegal. Like I said, what was the problem? Was it too exciting? What advantage did the offense get?

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 5:04pm

The problem for the NFL was that the Raiders won the game.

by apk3000 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:28am

It's unsportsmanlike? Otherwise, you can just toss the ball forward to avoid a tackle and claim you fumbled. If you're going to do the crazy lateral thing, you should be actually lateraling.

by dbostedo :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:15am

Hmm... maybe allow it only if the ball hits the ground before being touched by another player? Do you think NFL players could get good at forward bounce passes? It could revolutionize the game!

by deus01 :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 10:45am

If anything they should adopt rugby like rules, so you could kick a 'fumble' forward and recover but using your hands would be like a knock-on.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 5:09pm

So now, whenever a fumble happens in the last two minutes of a game, no player other than the fumbler is allowed to advance it, no matter where it is recovered.

Last two minutes of a half (not just end of the game) and all 4th downs regardless of time of game.

by Pen :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:06am

Here's the thing: The ball FELL into the endzone, but it wasn't in the endzone when it was knocked out of his hand. So technically, it could have been picked up and brought to the point of the fumble at the one yard line and that wouldn't have been advancing the fumble.

by PatsFan :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:20am

That's not what the rule says. When the Holy Roller rule is in effect, the ball is spotted at either the spot of the fumble or the spot of the recovery -- whichever is worse for the team that fumbled it.

And that's why the refs blew the play dead once it was recovered by Lacy. The spot of recovery (the EZ) was worse than the spot of the fumble (the one yd line) and so the ball is spotted in the EZ.

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:14pm

I thought Aaron's analysis of MIA-NE was interesting. He made a lot of the same points on Twitter yesterday. Obviously, with him being at the game, he saw more of it than I did. Naturally, I was hoping Miami would win. The second the blocked FG happened, whatever small thought I had that they actually might win evaporated. I suppose looking at the game statistically, you can make the case Miami was outplaying them for a while and NE had some luck. Whatever. NE is a much better team. Better teams can wait it out until they start playing better or the other team screws up. It was less NE luck and more that they're just good.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:17pm

Has any team had more kicks blocked this season than Green Bay? Multiple extra points and field goals have been blocked along with one punt.

I am not a 'Fire the coach' kind of guy but how Slocum keeps his job is a puzzler

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:34pm

I'd guess Tampa has; they've had both a punt and FG blocked in a game on two separate Sundays.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:48pm

Well the Panthers had two punts blocked against Minnesota in one game.

I mostly wanted an excuse to mention that a team that wasn't organized enough to get punts off, and started Derek Anderson at quarterback yesterday, has a great shot to host a playoff game in the 1st round.

by Steve in WI :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:27pm

This season in general seems to have had a lot of blocked punts, field goals, and extra points. I don't know if I'm just noticing more of them or it's actually happening more frequently than in the past few years.

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 9:38pm

There seems to be more fake punts/FGs this year too, but I may be just talking out of my Monday night Mark and Stormy.

by Athelas :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 10:43pm

Mark and Stormy? Typo or a drink I am unfamiliar with?
(Love Dark and Stormys--or Stormies? both look wrong)

by Otis Taylor89 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:44pm

It's with Makers Mark instead of rum.

by Ryan :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:18pm

Anyone have any ideas as to why Dez Bryant was single-covered multiple times last night? Like, hello Philly. Why would you ever do that, especially with a decent front four that didn't always need safety help to contain Murray?

by Temo :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:32pm

I mean, Philly did come into the game with multiple players quoted saying stopping Murray was their #1 priority and talked little about anything else. I'd say they were single covering because their focus was all on the running game.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:10pm

Well, at least it was better than the time he was null tuple-covered:


by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:01am

When Nate Allen is in coverage, I wouldn't even venture a guess as to whether or not a wr is "single-covered" - for example on one of Bryant's TD's, he's clearly supposed to be providing over-the-top help and is so late getting over it makes it look like Fletcher got beat handily in man coverage. Now, Fletcher did get beat like a mule all game, but he's also expecting Allen to be over-the-top so when Bryant indeed beats him over-the-top it's not precisely Fletcher's fault. Flecther in that case wasn't getting beat in a one-on-one like the announcers said. Several times last night Allen did the Nate Allen thing of being so wildly out of position that it looks like the CB got utterly destroyed on the play, but in reality they were expecting bracket coverage or passing the wr off to Allen through a zone.

Also, Williams did an ok job manned up vs. Bryant. Bryant had his most success when they flipped him to Flecther's side of the field - the Eagles actually responded by doing something I have never seen them do under Billy Davis and had Williams follow Bryant around for the remainder of the game. I believe all of Bryant's scores were versus Fletcher and that Williams didn't get beat so much as accrue a flurry of penalties early on. Their gameplan versus Bryant worked so well versus him the first time around that it certainly wasn't crazy that they came out and ran something similar.

by Laufy :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:30pm

Say what you want about New England's decisions for covering Wallace, but it did not surprise me at all to see Revis shadowing Landry a significant amount of time. Landry has been Miami's best receiver this year and it's not close. Wallace has the ability to get open deep several times per game, but Landry is the consistent, reliable target open nearly every play. I doubt he has the pure speed to be as good as Antonio Brown, but this is essentially Pittsburgh 2012 again where Wallace was the headline receiver, but Brown was considerably better. Hopefully Landry and Tannehill continue to develop that chemistry.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:10pm

It's not so much that Revis wasn't on Wallace than that Malcolm Butler was. Butler isn't one of their top two CBs. He's buried on the depth chart below Revis, Browner, Ryan, and Arrington. Surely a better choice was available.

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:34pm

I guess you can infer, then, that your (and Aaron's) statement is incorrect, and Butler was NOT below Ryan and Arrington on the depth chart as of 1:00 Sunday. Depth charts are fluid. Ryan hasn't played that well this year, and Arrington typically won't play on the outside.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:39pm

That seems to be a persnickety way to "infer" things.

For one thing, Arrington is primarily used in slot coverage, and wouldn't be used on an outside receiver like Mike Wallace. In years past, Arrington has shown an inability to cover speed receivers on the outside.

That leaves us with Revis, Browner, and Ryan. Now you may believe that Butler isn't really below those three on the depth chart, but a check of the snap counts over the course of the season would support Aaron, I suspect.

Regardless, after Butler was badly burned by Wallace on the very first play of the game, it was baffling to see him still get that assignment for the rest of the first half. My suspicion is that at halftime, Belichick took Matt Patricia aside, and asked him why the hell Malcolm Butler was still getting that coverage assignment. A reasonable question, considering how much money the Pats spent to bring Browner and Revis to the Pats this season.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:10pm

Butler had been impressive and had even played above Dennard and Ryan several weeks. Rough week, but he acquitted himself nicely beforehand, even against Manny Sanders.

Ultimately, NE has a top three - Revis/Browner outside with Arrington in the slot, and the rest is fluid depending on match up, special teams, health and how well they've been playing lately.

by xMRNUTTYx :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:51pm

How does Healy not know the immortal Henry Burris!?!


Burris' only NFL start (which Healy manages to reference in some pretty bad statistical company) was the final Bears' "home game" of the 2002 season. This was the year they played down in Champaign while Soldier Field was being renovated into the weird damn spaceship that exists today. As a senior at Illinois, it was pretty easy to find cheap tickets to games that season and this was probably the easiest. A friend and I got in for $10 each from a scalper just before kick-off, getting us in just in time to inform all of the Bucs fans around us (there were a lot) that they were going to experience the future of the NFL in this kid named Burris.

It did not work out that way and to this day, it's still the worst football game I've ever seen live. I could tell my kids that I saw a Super Bowl winning team in their prime, but it'd be a lie since I'm pretty sure the Bucs won that game with mostly practice squad players.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:07pm

Oh I remember Henry Burris. If his first read wasn't open, he would tuck the ball...but not run. Instead he would look around at the pass rush right up until the moment they sacked him. It must have been special seeing him in person.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:35pm

There is an absolutely fantastic picture of Henry Burris throwing a pass with his eyes closed.

by Guest789 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:51pm

He's still playing in the CFL and has actually made a relatively strong career, although when he was with Calgary, my dad and i would joke that the spiral on the balls he threw were so loose, they were the "Hank end-over-end special".

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:15pm

For what it's worth, Burris is still in the CFL, and has had a simply phenomenally great career up there. Has to be one of the classic "not good enough for the NFL, but great in the CFL" stories.

by Dales :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 1:52pm

It is an absolute joy watching him play.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 2:19pm

It may seem like I'm making excuses for the Lions barely beating a losing team at home (I will say the Lions came out flat and had offensive and defensive game plans that were waaay too conservative), but Mike Zimmer has the Vikes playing very well lately. The defense is fast and tackles well. Xavier Rhodes looks like a star in the making. Bridgewater looks like a totally different player than when the Lions last saw him. He made fast decisions and had excellent ball placement. The offensive line is playing much better, as well.

That being said, the Lions have to be way better and way more aggressive if they want to have a hope of beating the Packers in week 17.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:06pm

Zimmer's done a great job, in response to crappy circumstances. Given they won't be paying their qb much for a couple years, they'd be nuts to not bring Peterson back next year. I think they'd have a minimum of 9 wins right now if he hadn't been suspended.

If Peterson comes back, and they get more physical on the offensive line, and just add a little more talent on defense, I think they easily could win 11 0r 12 games next year, with the typical injury caveats.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:50pm

MIN has built a nice roster, and the future looks bright if Teddy improves. It's a very competitive division though, where GB (esp) & DET both look to be good for awhile. Chicago has a dumpster fire feel to them for the next few years, which should be expected of any team counting on Cutler to carry them.

I've never heard of Everson Griffen until Elway tried to sign him (which drove up his salary) but he is really strong and their defense has some nice pieces in place.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 5:20pm

It'll be interesting to see what happens to the Lions defense if they don't get Suh back.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 5:35pm

Considering that FAs often go to division rivals, and that they had the foresight to draft Teddy in the first round and probably won't have AP... Min is in position to afford Suh...

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 6:04pm

I think Suh wants to go to a big-name franchise that's on national TV a lot (Dal,Den,NE,NYG, etc) so he can be a big star. Minnesota doesn't fit that bill yet. Chicago would have if this season hadn't been so disastrous. GB, despite being technically a small market, gets a lot of exposure, but they don't run the defensive system to best utilize his skill set (although it would be pretty amusing/ironic if they did, given the events of Thanksgiving 2011).

The Lions defense will definitely regress without Suh, but they have enough other good players (Ansah, Levy, Slay, Quinn, Ighedibo, Fairley if they decide to resign him) that they won't completely crater. I would predict that instead of being #1 or #2, they'll be #8-10. And that's assuming they don't sign a couple of other players with the extra cap space.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:05pm

Suh was in the last draft class to make big money on a first contract, so I wouldn't be worried about his motivation after getting big $$$, but he's definitely an odd dude. He should be the biggest defensive FA ever in terms of money, so I don't know what teams can afford the cap hit. I think Min would be a good fit bc they are up and coming, have the money and play familiar opponents. Indy would be a nice fit as they could fit him in before they have to pay Luck. He is the quintessential classic Raider and they'd offer him the most, but I can't see him going there.

Of the teams mentioned above, The only team I see signing him is NE, if they let Revis go OR TRICK Brady to take another pay cut.
2014 was Denver's last year in big time free agency for awhile bc Elway has to resign too many young players, DT, JT, Knighton, Franklin, Miller in 2016 and has a $20M QB. Dallas is in salary cap hell and needs to resign Murray & Bryant and field a defense. The NYG seem to have a culture that is too conservative to go after Him. My 2015 Suh destinations: 1. Det 2. Indy 3. Min 4. NE

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 7:15pm

Yeah it isn't so much motivation as it is other weird stuff that would make me nervous, especially given the current personal conduct policy climate. His market power is likely going to be such that it won't be possible to write in any provisions in the contract that protects the employer more than usual.

What's the cap number likely to be next year 150-160 million? I think Stafford and Johnson will consume about 38-39 million of that, leaving 111-112 million for 51 other guys. If Suh takes up 20 or so, things might get a little tight.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 8:15pm

NE won't sign Suh. They have a deep, talented DT corps right now without getting anything from their 2014 first rounder. They are also using more nickle and dime packages, as well as nascar style sets with LBs and DEs rushing from inside. Bill is an economist at heart and, as great as he is, Suh wouldn't provide enough value to justify the cost.

by Bobman :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 10:26pm

Suh to Indy? I don't see it happening, if only because they will soon have to pay their very successful offensive draftees from Luck's class: Luck, Hilton, Allen, Fleener. No idea who else will come due around this time, but Luck (and the rookie wage scale) may price them out of FA signings for a while. Not a terrible thing necessarily.
Their core DL is a bit aged with the ageless and IMO underappreciated Cory Redding as the anchor. Chapman is young and Jean-Francois about average. Having said that... having a really disruptive/dominant player on the DL would be a real treat. LBs can sort of play the run or blitz, but are weak in coverage. Right now they are surviving via Vontae Davis and a bunch of creative blitzes.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:07pm

I think the Colts fit the profile of a team that can both attract and afford him. Indy is a contending team who's QB is still on his rookie contract. They could load his contract so that a high percentage of it hits before they have to pay Luck. I don't see any of the other guys you mentioned receiving top 5 money for their positions.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 6:15pm

I'm not crazy about the notion of paying Suh market value. He's been a great player, but there has been enough weirdness surrounding the guy that giving him, what, 50 or 60 million guaranteed cash is a bit unsettling.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 6:15pm

I'm not crazy about the notion of paying Suh market value. He's been a great player, but there has been enough weirdness surrounding the guy that giving him, what, 50 or 60 million guaranteed cash is a bit unsettling.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 5:20pm

It'll be interesting to see what happens to the Lions defense if they don't get Suh back.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:06pm

Here's how starting quarterbacks have fared when facing the Bills since about midway through the season; Bridgewater 2 picks, Geno Smith 3 picks in five attempts, chased from game and counted out as a possible starting quarterback, Alex Smith 17 of 29 no touchdowns (he did run in the winning score though), Tannehill (we'll get back to him), Michael Vick benched for Geno Smith, Brian Hoyer benched for Manziel who runs in a touchdown but is otherwise beaten around, make everyone wonder if Peyton Manning should retire, and last, give Aaron Rodgers the worst game of his career.

The only starting quarterback to be successful against them in the last eight games is Ryan Tannehill, with two touchdowns. He was playing at home on three days rest. Both Vick and Geno Smith were relatively successful playing in relief. So the Bills must be thinking, ok, our quarterbacks aren't good, but we'll make yours look a whole lot worse.

by djanyreason :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:02pm

Reading Cian's response to Aaron on GB home/road splits, I am reminded of my favorite youtube video - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dw9qqvm-LT8

by Never Surrender :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:31pm

The Holy Roller call was technically correct but a great illustration of why that rule, and others like it, need to go.

And a great example in general of the problem with devising rules upon rules to deal with every fluke outcome that comes along every decade or so. Not only does it add unnecessary complexity to a game that has way too much complexity already, but you also create the possibility of screwing another team later on when a second fluke involving the same mechanism happens to occur in such a way as to make the rule look unfair.

The NFL could redesign a playbook with 20-30% of the rules, apply them consistently, and end up with a much better product. (First to go would be any rules that begin with qualifiers like "within the final minutes of a half . . .") It might put a few scribe-commentators out of business, but it would speed up the game and give us fewer "WFT?!" moments.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:43pm

Agree completely. The NFL has become so reactionary with its rewriting of the rules that the current rulebook is a fetid mess of over-complicated language.

I would also nominate removing rules that involve "the crown of the helmet". If the NFL doesn't want helmets that can be used as deadly weapons, design new helmets!

by Guest789 :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 5:18pm

This is the second part of my earlier complaint - having different rules in the last 2 minutes than during the rest of the game strikes me as absurdly arbitrary. Why not 3 minutes? Why not 1 minute? Crazy idea - why not one set of rules for the entire game.

by jacobk :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 6:13pm

Usually teams shy away from the fumblerooski tactic because it comes with a significant downside risk. That risk becomes irrelevant in end-game scenarios.

by Never Surrender :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:18pm

So what? A loose ball is part of the game. The Holy Roller caught one team by surprise, but defenses would easily adjust to it from then on.

Imagine if the NFL devised a specialized rule to make sure hook-and-ladder plays don't decide a game: "In the final two minutes of a half, no player may, after receiving the ball but before taking at least two steps toward the end zone, lateral to another player." Or a rule designed to squash Music City Miracle type plays. I'm being a little tongue-in-cheek here, and I know these sound absurd and arbitrary — but they really are no more arbitrary than rules actually in existence.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:40pm

Imagine if the NFL devised a specialized rule to make sure hook-and-ladder plays don't decide a game: "In the final two minutes of a half, no player may, after receiving the ball but before taking at least two steps toward the end zone, lateral to another player." Or a rule designed to squash Music City Miracle type plays.

I don't see how that's remotely comparable. Laterals have been an essential part of football because it evolved from rugby. If you don't have rules set out for special circumstances players will exploit them until it doesn't even resemble football anymore. For instance, teams could tuck the ball under their clothes, or kick the ball down the field.

by Never Surrender :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:22pm

"Fumbles have been an essential part of football because it evolved from rugby."

What exactly isn't comparable again? Fumbles are a staple phenomenon in both rugby and football. Sure, in a desperate situation you can execute a fumble in such a way it's unusual. But can you look at a play with multiple fumbles and then look at one of those "everyone keep throwing the ball back to another player when you're about to get tackled" plays and say with a straight face that one resembles football whereas the other doesn't? Both are silly in their own way.

Heck, the Titans almost scored on one of those silly plays just this past week, and I watched it. It doesn't resemble normal football, and as a bread-and-butter strategy it would be doomed to fail, but that doesn't mean the NFL should ban it with specially written rules. How the same cannot be said for fumbles still eludes me.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:45pm

In rugby when the ball is fumbled forward the opposition is awarded a scrum. In the absence of a parallel in the NFL you disallow it altogether. And yes, multiple lateraling resembles concepts of football/rubgy far more than forward fumbles do. Again, you need to think about how teams might take advantage of certain loopholes. A player could "fumble" the ball and then "accidentally" kick it as far as he can. Then it would be a free-for-all to try to recover, and depending on the circumstance that would be much more advantageous for the offense than a mere punt would be. No such advantage arises from laterals but the ball isn't being advanced forward.

by Never Surrender :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:07pm

The kick-and-free-for-all scenario you describe actually happens in rugby all the time, minus the forward fumble preceding it, though the ball is often squirting around arbitrarily when hacked forward. There is nothing about it that is more alien to classical play than what you witness in NFL lateral-desperation plays, and I can just about guarantee you that defenses can be coached to prevent it with at least the same success as they currently have against these ridiculous lateral-fests.

Keep in mind that the reason lateral-powered offense works as a fair-play mechanism in rugby is that everyone stays behind the ball, allowing the defense to be organized and not worry about interference — which is deemed too advantageous for an offense. In the NFL, once a team starts a string of laterals, everything goes to hell: players are all over the place, blocking everywhere from all angles, accidental contact that takes players out, people group together rather than forming a coherent attack . . . it's just a complete mess. About as organized as a soccer game between 6-year-olds. And it doesn't resemble anything you see in rugby or historical American football, your arguments notwithstanding.

Neither silly lateral plays nor advance-by-fumble plays are illegal under the league's standard rules. Even the ad hoc rule against advances by fumbles only applies on 4th downs and with less than two minutes remaining in the half. It seems to me that allowing teams to be aware of what's in the realm of legal play and plan accordingly is a better policy for handling undesirable fluke plays than designing special rules — both for consistency's sake and for the reasons I've given in my previous comments.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 8:16pm

I admit to not knowing rugby rules to that extent, so I'll concede on those points.

I can just about guarantee you that defenses can be coached to prevent it with at least the same success as they currently have against these ridiculous lateral-fests.

I can guarantee that they can't. Multiple laterals right now are far less chaotic for the defense than you make it out to be; that's why there's only been a handful of successes in hundreds of attempts. Whereas defenses break down all the time just on deep passes alone, so something like a runner punting the ball down the field to a cherry-picking receiver would have a significant rate of success.

I don't know why invoking consistency would be a good reason. For instance, one of the worst examples of consistency is the horse-collar penalty. Put in for player safety, it hasn't done a thing to discourage defenders from dragging runners down when there's clear field ahead of them with no other defenders. It can be better to risk a 15-yard penalty and even possible suspension than to give up the TD, but it completely spoils the point of the penalty, and defenders are going to keep on doing this no matter how aware they are of the penalty. Just as basketball has clear-path fouls, football needs to award the offense a TD in that scenario and heavily punish the defender as well.

As for "creat[ing] the possibility of screwing another team later on when a second fluke involving the same mechanism happens to occur in such a way as to make the rule look unfair," that's on the committee to work out whether the new rule can be similarly exploited. If it can be, then that's the fault of the committee, not of the agency of making new rules itself.

by Never Surrender :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:14pm

I alluded to this point in my previous post but meant to address it directly. You claimed: "In rugby when the ball is fumbled forward the opposition is awarded a scrum. In the absence of a parallel in the NFL you disallow it altogether."

But this would imply that in American football an offense should never benefit from a fumble that went forward. Yet there is a near-100-year history of that being the case, including the entirety of the NFL aside from the special cases in question. Your logic here isn't applicable to the way the game developed.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 8:49pm

Well, if you look at the rule that everyone is familiar with --- the game clock stops under 2 minutes in the first half and under 5 minutes in the second half --- the reason for not extending it to the entire game is to not bog most of the game down with time stoppages, while giving a trailing team a chance to come back, which makes the game more exciting. And jacobk's reason for the Holy Roller rule is reasonable as well. If you think those reasons are still not sufficient, then argue against them, but don't just dismiss the concept altogether.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 10:29pm

The timing rule did extend for the entire game from the beginning of time up until 1993 or so.

Because of the increase in commercials the networks and the NFL decided games were taking so long. So instead of giving us fewer commercials, they gave us less football (by letting the clock run in more places than it used to).

by Never Surrender :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:24pm

Yes, the timing rules are not there to enhance the game. They are an embarrassing admission that the game in its current form takes too damn long and that each broadcast is centered around commercial breaks.

I used to look down on professional soccer and rugby teams because they allow on-jersey and on-field advertising. It seemed to me that the NFL was a bit purer in that respect. Now I wish that we had a field covered with advertisements if only it meant there could be a natural flow to the game.

by Jerry :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:02pm

Unfortunately, that advertising would just be another revenue stream. They wouldn't take out the commercial breaks.

by Never Surrender :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 7:09pm

Correct. There is no going back. I'm done mourning the level of commercial interruption to the game, anyway. There are ways around it when I just want to watch football. And of course there is always the mute button, too, for when I prefer to see it live.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 5:29pm

The NFL also does not want fractured skulls. This is at odds with helmets that cannot be used as weapons.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 3:45pm

I know it sounds odd, but I can't remember being less impressed by a 28 point win than I was this week with NE. They were basically two plays from going to halftime down 16-0, and even more if Miami hadn't dropped several easy catches. Granted, you can't say with certainty that everything would have played out the same in an alternative scenario. Maybe NE has a better offensive drive after Miami's opening field goal. Maybe the Patriots go into urgency mode sooner if Miami doesn't drop the TD to go up 10-0. Maybe, maybe, maybe....

But the yards and TOP were an accurate reflection of how each team played heading into the break.

The funny thing is, even with that, Miami needed an erroneous DPI on Browner (yes, there are some of those, as well as times when he isn't called like on Chung's pick) to get their second FG, and a blatant block-in-the-back was ignored on the punt return that set up Miami's half ending TD. So, even with Miami dominating, it could have easily been 14-3. So odd.

It wasn't just Butler who struggled in coverage. Even Revis was beaten a few times and Miami had open guys in the middle all game, whether that was DB or LB coverage I don't know. Belichick said something afterward about how they could have coached better, and it did seem like Miami was able to do some things that NE wasn't expecting. The second half was obviously better, but the score got out of hand so quick it is hard to be certain how much credit goes to the D for that.

Offensive coaching wasn't the greatest, IMO, either. Gray is a hot topic in the Northeast, and I'm fully on board with the kid. Blount just isn't the grinder people think he is. If he's got an alley, he's great, even more so in the open field with nothing but terrified DBs ahead. But he tip-toes to the line and gets stuffed way more than a 250 lb man should. Gray is much quicker to hole and is far superior at plowing through traffic to at least get 3-4 yards without much help.

It seems clear as day to me, but NE's coaches inexplicably still seem to prefer LaGarrette. I'm hoping that the dramatic improvement once Gray was finally allowed back on the field changes they minds on this issue.

The Patriots also seemed unusually persistent with the passing game even in the 4th quarter. I'm not one who laments running up the score or anything so trivial, but Miami was putting Brady on the ground regularly so it made no sense to me why they didn't start running it more. Even if you just go three and out, which was unlikely since the Dolphins were in full roll-over mode and Gray was gashing them, there was zero chance of losing the game. Why subject Tom to hits unnecessarily?

But, then again, Baltimore barely beat the awful Jags, Pitt struggled against Atlanta, GB lost to Buffalo, Denver was far from dominant and Indy barely beat Houston. It could just be me losing perspective on how hard it is to win any game on any week. ;-)

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:02pm

Here is the link to Bill talking about the first half coaching, though he appears to be talking solely about the questionable approach before Miami's TD.


Yeah, a surprise draw on first down makes a little sense. On the subsequent second and third downs? None. If you are planning on running it, just *RUN* it. Josh is always trying to outsmart the other guy instead of just lining up and beating him and it looks ugly when it backfires.

by Rick_and_Roll :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:14pm

New England had one of those games where they survived early with some lucky breaks (along with untimely Miami poor plays) and turned it into a blow-out with a dominant second half. IMO, this game showed the difference in coaching between New England and Miami, as the Patriots made great adjustments in all phases. As for New England turning to the pass, it looked like Miami came into the game trying to take away the run, and NE made the offensive adjustment.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:35pm

My complaint about the pass is at the end after the game was decided. I don't like seeing Tom get repeatedly knocked to the turf with 15 minutes to go in a 38-13 game.

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 4:29pm

Meh, I thought they looked horrible in the first half and dominant in the second.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 5:06pm

If you can't be impressed by the second half yesterday, there's not much to say. The 24-0 third quarter was literally the best third quarter in the history of the franchise. The defense shut the Dolphins out in the second half.

So the Pats didn't dominate all 60 minutes, but only the last 30? So what! The Dolphins are not the Washington Generals. They're a good NFL team and this is what happens in the NFL. Nobody wins every quarter of every game.

As for the fourth quarter, Brady only played one series. The Pats burned nearly 4 1/2 minutes of clock and scored a FG. I don't see what's wrong with that. That drive had 7 passes and 3 rushes. Each of the rushes gained exactly 2 yards. That's why they were throwing.

Personally I was happy to see Brady throwing some long passes there. He's become notorious for having low accuracy on deep passes, and it seemed to me they were working some of that out with in-game passing. He had several long misses yesterday, but he did eventually hit the target a couple times.

Summary: they clinched the division and looked very good doing so. They're in good position to clinch a bye this weekend, with a chance of getting the #1 seed if Denver falters.

This is not a team as good as the 2007 Pats. But they might be as good as the 2011 Pats, or even the 2003-2004 Pats. Take it for what it's worth.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 5:16pm

You appear to have misinterpreted my post. Or perhaps the true intentions weren't clear due to print or bad writing.

I was simply pointing out that the score belied how well each team actually performed. Not sure why that statement means I need every game to be 49-0.

by young curmudgeon :: Mon, 12/15/2014 - 11:34pm

You say "Bulaga," I say "Beluga..."

Sorry, but someone had to do it.

by beargoggles :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:16am

I'm most po'd about the bogus Roughing the Passer, not because it likely affected the outcome of the game, but because it forced me to watch the travesty also known as "49ers Hurry Up Offense." Yeesh. I'm mostly bummed Harbaugh is gone, but finding somebody to modernize the offense could be a step in the right direction if they can pull it off.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 12:32pm

49er's fans do not need to despair - that's one of the best rosters in the NFL and this season was an almost inconceivable storm of injuries, suspensions, coaching tsuris and generalized locker-room chaos. Whoever inherits the team next year is getting a roster ready to contend for a Superbowl. That's without even adding any pieces in the offseason.

by greybeard :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 2:19pm

It would not surprise me if they go after David Shaw. But my guess is Scott Linehan will be the next HC of 49ers.

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:18pm

Oh gods of football, save us from this fate!

by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 3:43pm

49er's fans are upset about Harbaugh leaving, right? I can't get a sense on how all of that is being received by the fans. To the outside, it looks like a heart-breaking mess, but I don't follow them closely enough to get a sense on what the feeling is in regards to Harbuagh's shocking impending departure...

by Karl Cuba :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:08pm

Before the season I was hoping all the talk about him leaving was just hot air but now I'm resigned to him going and largely indifferent to that happening.

There are two main reasons for this: the abysmal performance on offense and the lack of development from Kaepernick, which is especially troubling as it was Harbaugh's reputation as a qb whisperer that was part of the reason for hiring him.

Many people point out that his record is so much better than his predecessors', which is true but 'better than Singletary and Nolan' does not equal great head coach. I think it's a pretty good roster and it's quite difficult to establish how much better Harbaugh has actually made them.

I'm hoping for someone who can really address the issues I raised above. Maybe Josh McDaniels, he's worked with highly efficient passing games in the past, retread head coaches have a very strong record of Super Bowl success and he drafted Tebow. While taking Timmy in the first was a mistake, he wouldn't have personnel control in SF and it does show that he was thinking about installing some kind of read option attack. Or maybe we should bring Holmgren out of retirement for one last bout of fixing a quarterback's mechanics.

Or maybe Rex Ryan, who would probably do sick things with the niners' defense and get Lazor in as offensive coordinator if he gets fired after the Dolphins trade for Harbaugh.

I really hope we can get something decent in return for Harbaugh in a trade though, that would make the fanbase much happier about the entire mess.

by chemical burn :: Tue, 12/16/2014 - 4:41pm

If you're worried about your QB's development, you don't want Rex in there. I guess with Lazor that might be something, but Morenwheig has a much more significant track record than Lazor and he couldn't do anything under Rex. It's just so weird because Harbaugh didn't lose his job for anything on the field that happened and I can't remember the last time an NFL coach with his level of success was forced out in such an ugly fashion.

Anyway, it's interesting to me because I would think that 49er's fans would be freaking out, especially in the context you mention of having been so, so bad for such a significant stretch. But again, as I mentioned before, I think the roster is so good that whoever comes in is going to have have at least one Barry Switzer/Bill Callahan-style honeymoon year.

by beargoggles :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:38am

Nobody probably still reading this thread, but there was an article in the paper about the Niners' window having closed, which I also think is a little premature. The season felt doomed from the get go, and I was surprised they hung in there a while. Offense underachieved but defense overachieved.

I think Harbaugh/Roman have real problems as an offensive coordinator. You literally can't play from behind with this offense (well I know they did at Atlanta in the playoffs, but they had plenty of time and that wasn't a very good defense). Shaw would undoubtedly be more of the same and he's ridiculously conservative. I'll pass.

I'm not sure about the other Harbaugh stuff. DId he lose the locker room? I have no idea. It doesn't make that much sense, he never criticizes his players in public and he brings a lot of enthusiasm. I don't see much evidence at least so far that anybody "quit" on the team, unless you want to count some of Ahmad Brooks' actions. So I'm inclined to think that this is a GM strategy to leak reports to discredit him. But I certainly might be wrong.

As for next year, the team isn't so old (other than Justin Smith and Gore) that a lot of people can't have bounce back seasons. There's certainly some uncertainty about how well people like Bowman and Vernon Davis can play going forward, and they still need another good corner. I think I know who Kaep is now, so I'm going to say the keys will be the right coach(es) and a rebound from the OL.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 6:41pm

How do people feel about Hyde? I like him, but I also have mainly seen him through the lens of being hyped up as Gore's replacement and haven't seen him on a game-to-game basis. DVOA doesn't love him, but he'd rank 13th in DVOA if he qualified for carries and he's reasonably close to qualifying so the sample size isn't solo small. If Gore and Smith are the big roster worries, they're in great shape.

Also curious what fans think should be done about Kaepernick. I think he's should be the man out there, but it's tough to deny he's looked totally lost at times this year...

by beargoggles :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 11:57pm

Hyde definitely looks promising, but not like a total stud. The usual caveats about pass blocking and receiving apply. He breaks enough tackles so that if they can run a diverse offense when he's in there he'll be good. Harder for me to assess things like vision.

Kaepernick looked like Donovan McNabb with more exposiveness before this year. But I don't think McNabb ever had the deer-in-the-headlights I'll start throwing picks and near-picks mode--whatever his other deficiencies. I agree with KarlCuba that he needs a line. I'd say after year 3 improvement is possible but far less likely

by beargoggles :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 11:58pm

Hyde definitely looks promising, but not like a total stud. The usual caveats about pass blocking and receiving apply. He breaks enough tackles so that if they can run a diverse offense when he's in there he'll be good. Harder for me to assess things like vision.

Kaepernick looked like Donovan McNabb with more exposiveness before this year. But I don't think McNabb ever had the deer-in-the-headlights I'll start throwing picks and near-picks mode--whatever his other deficiencies. I agree with KarlCuba that he needs a line. I'd say after year 3 improvement is possible but far less likely

by greybeard :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:19am

I think you are spot on the reasons why he will be let go. But additional reason is his character. You can be all about the winning but cannot be just that. You have to have other people's skills to keep people going. Otherwise people will be burned and will not perform well. Harbaugh's us and them, nobody has it better than us rhetoric alone cannot keep players motivated.
He also seemed to have some strong disagreements with the GM.

I think 49ers should find an offensive minded coach and should do everything in their power to keep Fangio.
I would hate it to be McDaniels. He does not seemed to be skilled at managing people and organizations.

by greybeard :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:00am

Which one: Shaw or Linehan or either.

by Karl Cuba :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:13am

The appeal to the football deities was in regards to Linehan, I see little upside there. However, Shaw seems like more of the same to me. I'd like a change.

by beargoggles :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:42am

I agree. Shaw's game plan is based on guess what: an awesome offensive line and incredibly conservative tactics.
I suppose you could decide that the team will just revert to 2011-13 form and that this is the strategy to make that happen, but I doubt it.
The good news is I don't think the owners are cheapskates any more. Maybe they'll open the pocketbook for somebody good or promising.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 1:02am

What coaches are out there that people are excited about? I keep hearing the same Cowher/Gruden nonsense (both Jets and Giants fans are convinced they're going to get Cowher) but I honestly don't even know who the popular candidates are these days. I guess McDaniels is going to get his second shot. I hadn't realized Linehan was held in that regard (I agree he seems like a bad idea.) There's going to be at least a half dozen open coaching slots this off-season that I can see from this group of teams: Jets, Giants, Redskins, Bears, 49ers, Raiders, Dolphins, Jaguars, Bucs and Titans...

by mehllageman56 :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 4:54am

The Niners are going to be the destination that coaching prospects will want to go to. As far as Jets or Giants fans convinced that they're going to get Cowher, I haven't heard that, and I'm not sure it's such a great idea to hire somebody who's been out of the NFL for so long. Potential coaches include both coordinators from Seattle, Dave Toub from KC, Gus Malzahn and Art Briles (neither of whom are certain to leave their college teams), Harbaugh, and I don't know who else. On second thought, maybe the Jets should hang onto Rex and Idzik.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 6:48pm

I guess I listen to too much sports radio and read the Daily News - those commentators/callers are all about Cowher and to a lesser extent Gruden. All of my Jets fan friends are desperate for some offense and Gruden is the only "offensive genius" on the market, so his name comes up. A guy like Linehan would get eaten alive in the NYC/NJ media and after Idzik, all things Seattle are pretty much spat upon in these parts...

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 5:38pm

Linehan is a pretty good offensive coordinator who is good at adjusting his system to the personnel (Detroit fans were hard on him, but now appreciate him after watching this year's offense struggle to adapt to a new system). But for God's sake, he does not need to be Peter-principled into another coaching job. Did everyone suddenly forgot about the 2006-2008 St. Louis Rams?

by greybeard :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 6:19pm

My guess is the FO thinks the team is good and having a good offensive coach and keeping everything else will bring back success.
As a result I think it is quite likely that they will go with Tomsula as long as they have a good offensive coordinator signed up.
Shaw was the passing coordinator for Harbaugh - which is the weakness of Harbaugh/Roman- and he does not have a good QB right now. Is his true style what he was doing with Luck (they ran more then passed but their passing game itself was not conservative and they did not need it much) or what he does with Logan? Pat Hamilton seems to be not that conservative.

I cannot think of who they can replace Harbaugh with. An unproven coordinator will be a big risk after a proven coach like Harbaugh. A re-tread would be hard to explain as well. I hope Sean Payton is fired and comes to 49ers even though I do not like him as a person. I cannot see who they could hire that would look like an improvement over Harbaugh.

by chemical burn :: Wed, 12/17/2014 - 6:37pm

Yeah, but what could anybody do with Logan? It's tough to judge guys based on how they manage 3rd stringers. But yeah, I just don't see who is out there who would be a smart bet to equal or improve upon Harbaugh. Especially an unproven coordinator-type or (as pointed out above) a retread like Linehan that I did indeed forget had even worked as an HC before.