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28 Dec 2015

Audibles at the Line: Week 16

compiled by Andrew Potter

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

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

While these 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.

Washington Redskins 38 at Philadelphia Eagles 24

Aaron Schatz: So, Kirk Cousins' knee?

Scott Kacsmar: If the Redskins lose, people will definitely link that play to Cousins' career. If they win, it will probably still be remembered since this game clinches the division for Washington. A major brain fart on what has otherwise been a very solid night for Cousins against a Philadelphia pass defense that has just fallen apart this season.

That whole sequence to end the half was goofy. The pass to get that close was a little questionable without a timeout, then Cousins actually tried to fall on the ball to try drawing a penalty or something since the offense was having a hard time lining up for the spike. Fortunately, a delay of game penalty was called on the Eagles. Then you had Cousins spike the ball, and Walt Coleman just completely missed it. The Eagles called timeout with six seconds left, so Jay Gruden's call for a fade pass was a little dicey since it had to be very quick there. But Cousins must not have heard it or just completely forgot what was going on. Either throw the fade or spike it. He has to know better than to take a knee without a timeout.

But this game is a fitting potential end for the NFC East race this year. The Eagles are dropping passes left and right on both sides of the ball, and a DeMarco Murray fumble-six just may be the dagger in this season. Of course DeAngelo Hall was there for the return, further cementing his legacy as the worst player to be in the right spot at the right time for 10 defensive scores.

Aaron Schatz: Fletcher Cox and Connor Barwin are still playing great but yeah, the rest of the Eagles defense has really fallen apart. In particular, the linebackers look awful in pass coverage. I wonder if Kiko Alonso really ever got healthy from that setback with his knee in Week 2.

Tom Gower: I only saw game from the middle of the third quarter onward, so I missed the Cousins excitement. The secondary injuries appeared to really catch up to the Eagles, and Aaron already noted Alonso's shortcomings tonight. The third-and-13 pass conversion to Pierre Thomas on the touchdown drive that made it 23-10, yikes. Looked like a fairly straightforward slant-flat, but Alonso got caught up in the trash and a back who was on the street because people thought he was done (I'm assuming) gets a bunch of YAC.

I don't know what to say about the Philadelphia offense, aside from it seems like a great Rorschach test: blame Chip Kelly the college spread guru; blame Chip Kelly's "NFL-ization;" blame Sam Bradford; blame the wide receivers; blame Kelly the GM; blame the offensive line; blame paying big money to a running back. A lot of my in-season reaction says Kelly inherited four-fifths of a really good offensive line, added Lane Johnson to complete it, has failed to compensate for diminution of players on said line, seen his offensive struggles multiply as a result, and lost two game-breaking receivers, each of which served as the key component of the pass offense the past two seasons, so this plus the defensive failures says Kelly the GM, but I'm open to arguments and the answer is in some sense "all of the above."

Andrew Healy: A few postgame thoughts:

The play to end the first half was bizarre. For anyone who missed it, after a delay of game on Philly for batting the ball, Washington got the ball first-and-goal inside the Philly 10-yard line with six seconds left. So many weird aspects to the play. First, the bat happened with nine or ten seconds left, I think, but the time didn't get put back on the clock. Second, I would have thought the clock would stop on the defensive penalty there, but it looked like it was going to restart before Philly called timeout. Third, even after a Philly timeout, Cousins took the knee rather than spike it or throw to the corner of the end zone as Gruden said they intended. As brain farts go, that was pretty inexplicable.

Brain farts aside, Cousins was awesome, looking like Carson Palmer and recent Cam Newton on ball placement downfield. Just perfect touch throws to the end zone, including a ball late first half that didn't go for a touchdown when Pierre Garcon's left toenail came down on the white line.

The Eagles sent the punt team on the field on fourth-and-2 on their own 28-yard line, down 38-17 with about 7:30 left. An injury timeout gave Chip extra time and they ended up going for it. It's still beyond me that anyone even thinks of punting there given that you might have time for three possessions if you're lucky. We know coaches do it all the time, but genius-wannabes should be going for it automatically there.

Scott Kacsmar: The Cousins knee will go down as one of the worst clock management moments, which is a shame since that drive was one of the best this season at managing the clock. Washington had no timeouts, 29 seconds left and gained 47 yards in 12 seconds. They got up to 60 yards in 23 seconds after the penalty, where I think some teams would have probably sent in the field goal unit. Seattle also had six seconds left in the Super Bowl when Russell Wilson threw that touchdown to Chris Matthews from the 11-yard line. This was from the Philadelphia 6. A fade is a quick decision, but it's a slower pass since the quarterback usually puts some air on the ball. If there's any bobble or fight for the ball in the end zone, that could take up the time. Cousins was pretty nonchalant about it in the postgame, because I'm sure he was more focused on the four touchdown passes and big win he helped deliver for his team.

Pittsburgh Steelers 17 at Baltimore Ravens 20

Scott Kacsmar: First quarter is over in Baltimore. DeAngelo Williams looks like 2004-05 Edgerrin James in Indy, just picking up 4 or 5 yards before he's even touched as the Ravens sit back in pass coverage. He rushed for nearly 80 yards in that quarter, but the Steelers were stopped on a fourth-and-1 on the opening drive. Ryan Mallett looked comfortable for a guy who just joined the team in the last two weeks. Led a long touchdown drive where every completion seemed to attack the slot/seam. Antonio Brown then bobbled away a touchdown in the end zone and the Steelers had to settle for a field goal.

Andrew Healy: After a shaky interception by Ben Roethlisberger to Daryl Smith just sitting in the middle of a zone, his stat line late in the first half: 5-of-10, 49 yards, no touchdowns, one interception. Against that defense, well, wow.

Scott Kacsmar: Steelers are the team most likely to beat the Bengals and Broncos in back-to-back weeks before losing to Ryan Mallett, Chris Givens, and Chris Matthews. Typical letdown game on the road where they think showing up is all they had to do to win. This has been going on for years under Mike Tomlin. Some people will write about the "rivalry" factor, but what do many of these Ravens care about that for? Mallett is just lucky to have another job in this league and he's probably having the best game of his career today. While the defense has had its issues, the main problem is the offense. The run-heavy start seemed to get the passing game off rhythm, and Roethlisberger was rarely throwing to anyone but Brown. Roethlisberger also picked a bad time to play his worst game of the season. He's forced some poor balls for two interceptions so far.

It should have been three interceptions, but the Ravens lined up offsides at the 1-yard line. For some reason, the Steelers went with an empty backfield on first down and Roethlsiberger threw into a small windowl the pass was tipped and returned for what would have been a dagger of a pick-six that ultimately did not count because of the offsides. DeAngelo Williams finally gets the ball again and scores a touchdown, so we still have a game at 20-17 with 6:33 left.

Carolina Panthers 13 at Atlanta Falcons 20

Ben Muth: Through the first quarter in this game and both teams have had just one possession. The Panthers got the ball and marched right down the field for a Cam Newton touchdown on a lead draw. When Atlanta got the ball, they fumbled the first snap of the game and dropped a third-and-15 screen pass two plays later. They should have been forced to punt but Charles Tillman committed a really dumb personal foul against Roddy White. With the extra life, the Falcons went 16 plays (including Matt Ryan juking Thomas Davis on a key third down) for a touchdown on the first play of the second quarter.

Also worth pointing out that when Cam scored it sounded like the game was in Carolina. Huge cheers.

Andrew Healy: Cam Newton just got bailed out big time by Philly Brown, who knocked away what should have been Newton's second interception in the last seven weeks. He punched out the ball as the defender's second foot was hitting the ground. Bad couple plays for Newton there. He took a 16-yard sack on the previous play and the Panthers ended up punting from the 37-yard line.

Really interesting matchup between Josh Norman and Julio Jones in the snippets I've seen. Early third quarter, Norman blew up a screen to Jones, but then the much larger Jones won the physical matchup off the line and got 7 yards on an easy slant. Seven catches on nine targets for 78 yards so far for Jones. Norman's physicality not quite the same against Jones as it was against OBJ.

Cian Fahey: Beckham got the better of Norman quite a lot last week; his numbers were down because of other factors.

Julio Jones is special. In a play that's going to be replayed over and over again, Julio bails out a Matt Ryan heave on third-and-long by rising above Luke Kuechly deep downfield for the long touchdown.

Vince Verhei: "Bailing out" is too strong -- Ryan scrambled to keep the play alive and made a big heave knowing he was going to get drilled, and giving Julio Jones a chance to win a jump ball on third-and-long is not a bad decision.

But I totally agree with your main point. Julio Jones might be Superman.

Ben Muth: It's fun and interesting to talk about technique and specific skill sets of players (particularly young guys), but there are so many times where the best athlete makes the plays simply because he's the best athlete (bigger, faster, stronger, jumps higher, etc.) Julio Jones running by and then out-leaping two Carolina defenders is a good example of the best athlete just out-athleting the other guys on the field.

Aaron Schatz: Falcons actually stop the Panthers attempt at a game-winning drive and it looks like the perfect season is finally lost for Carolina. They get the ball back with 1:48 left and Carolina has just one timeout. But instead of trying to kneel out the clock, the Falcons keep handing off... and they keep having offensive penalties, which stops the clock. The Panthers use their timeout after first down, but declined penalties on second and third down mean the Panthers will get the ball back with 1:30 left. The Falcons did get a 54-yard field goal from Shayne Graham, which somewhat makes up for a shorter missed field goal from earlier today, and makes it 20-13. But the perfect season is still alive.

Never mind. Perfect season is dead. Vic Beasley sack and fumble, recovered by Adrian Clayborn.

Vince Verhei: Unbelievable that the Panthers are going to get one more chance to tie this game at the end. Falcons forced Cam Newton to throw incomplete on fourth down with 1:48 to go and the Panthers down to one timeout. Falcons then commit a false start, which isn't a huge deal. They run on first-and-15, and Panthers call timeout. Then Atlanta runs on second-and-13, but they get called for illegal formation. Panthers decline the penalty, but that still stops the clock. Atlanta runs again on third-and-10, but they get called for holding, and Carolina declines the penalty but gets the clock stopped again. So now Atlanta has a fourth down at the 36 with 1:35 to go, and they go with the very risky 54-yard field goal try. A miss there looks like certain doom. But Shayne Graham hits the field goal to give Atlanta a 7-point lead. Still, Panthers get the ball back with a minute and a half to go.

And then Vic Beasley gets a strip sack and the Falcons recover to finally put this thing away and end the undefeated season. Falcons' pass rush was the surprising key to the game. Officially, they only had two sacks, but they were in Newton's face all day. For many reasons, this never should have been as close as it was, but the biggest came when Atlanta led 14-10 early in the fourth -- the Falcons had the ball at the Carolina 32, but the snap bounced off of Ryan's face mask and was recovered by Norman, who made a big return to set up a Carolina field goal. That was at least a six-point swing that had almost nothing to do with Carolina.

Cleveland Browns 13 at Kansas City Chiefs 17

Cian Fahey: Marcus Peters adds another interception for his total this year. Peters has eight interceptions as a rookie, a phenomenal feat, but has also divided opinion by giving up a lot of big plays. He's probably going to be some form of that over the course of his career, an Asante Samuel type who is a big-play threat for both teams.

Vince Verhei: At the end of the third quarter, Johnny Manziel has more yards rushing (76) than passing (75), and that is in no way a good thing. There's a difference between holding the ball and going through your reads, and holding the ball because you don't know what the hell to do, and Manziel is clearly in the latter group. On one third-and-10 near midfield, he ran up to the line of scrimmage, then basically stopped. A receiver slipped out of the backfield uncovered, waving his hands for what would have been a clear first down. Manziel never looked that way, and eventually inched forward for a 2-yard gain and a punt.

Aaron Schatz: Vince, or anyone watching it, how on earth are the Chiefs only beating the Browns by 4... at home?

Vince Verhei: Browns are running all over them -- Manziel is over 90 yards now, and Isaiah Crowell is over 80. On offense, they have had opportunities for big plays, but missed them. Alex Smith just missed Jeremy Maclin on an open deep ball down the sidelines, and he also threw an interception on third down just outside the red zone.

OK, I think we just hit peak Manziel. Browns just ran a 19-play, 62-yard field goal drive that included two fourth-down conversions (one on a fake punt), six Manziel runs, and officially, two completions for 19 total yards. There was actually a third completion on the drive, when Manziel fell under pressure, panicked, and dumped the ball off to offensive lineman Mitchell Schwartz -- and no, Schwartz was not eligible on the play, he just caught the ball and took a knee. So that was ineligible receiver, which was declined, because it was also intentional grounding. That set up a third-and-goal at the 18, and Manziel threw 2 yards behind a receiver on a wide-open 2-yard slant. By the end there, Browns had just realized Manziel was a runner playing quarterback, and they were calling option pitches like this was a 1980s Oklahoma-Texas game.

Cleveland gets a first down inside the Kansas City red zone, but the clock runs out before they can spike the ball and they lose 17-13. They actually outgained Kansas City 368-258 and were even in turnovers, but they also missed a field goal and had a failed fourth-down play at the Kansas City 30.

Rob Weintraub: Nevertheless, all we will read about from the Browns locker room is how Manziel is "night and day" better than he was last year. They lead the league in this kind of soft bigotry of low expectations. The sad thing is they are correct, Johnny is better -- that just shows how bad he was last year.

Indianapolis Colts 18 at Miami Dolphins 12

Aaron Schatz: Colts sack Ryan Tannehill for a safety. I'm shocked the Dolphins tied the NFL record for safeties allowed at four. I figured some team in the 1930s would have set the record with eight or nine.

Cian Fahey: It's weird to see a Miami Dolphins wide receiver tracking a poorly thrown pass on a deep route to work back to the ball and bring it in. DeVante Parker has a long way to go, but he's already better than Mike Wallace in that area.

Turned the Dolphins-Colts game on for gambling purposes. Through two series, DeVante Parker has two drops. He's fitting in well in Miami.

New England Patriots 20 at New York Jets 26 (OT)

Aaron Schatz: Patriots bringing out all their gadget plays against the Jets, because A) you don't want to run straight up the middle against this front, and B) the Jets tend to overpursue on defense. Pats have end-arounds by both Brandon LaFell and Keshawn Martin so far. They ran a flea flicker where Brady overthrew an open Gronk downfield, and then they came out with Wildcat on third-and-1... which sounds absurd because why would you ever not have Tom Brady at quarterback, especially when nobody converts third-and-1 with a quarterback sneak as well as Tom Brady? That play got stuffed, but the Patriots then went for it on fourth-and-1 and converted with a play-action pass to a wide-open James White out of the backfield.

Sterling Xie: Patriots run defense was a big key in beating the Jets the first time around, but getting gashed big time in the rematch. Jets already up to 92 yards on more than 6.0 yards per carry in the first half, in particular having lots of success with draws up the middle with Bilal Powell. With Belichick scheming to take away Brandon Marshall as expected, Stevan Ridley and Kenbrell Thompkins are getting lots of looks in their revenge games.

Andrew Healy: Huge holes up the middle on many of those runs. Pretty surprising

In the first quarter, Kenbrell Thompkins made a great little shoulder fake to the out and left Brandon Coleman grasping at air as he went deep and got 5 yards of separation. Ryan Fitzpatrick missed the easy touchdown. But Thompkins has gotten open a couple other times for receptions and looks more explosive than I remember him with the Patriots.

Looked like maybe they were repeating the strategy against DeAndre Hopkins and T.Y. Hilton last year and playing Logan Ryan on Brandon Marshall with help over the top on the Jets' touchdown drive to go up 10-3.

Andrew Healy: On third-and-11 early third quarter, Fitzpatrick finds Marshall for a long touchdown. It was Ryan underneath and Duron Harmon over the top, and the throw beat the coverage with an underthrow to the inside. It might have been the best way to beat the bracket, as Harmon likely had a throw over the top and Ryan had short to the outside. Guessing it wasn't design and that Marshall just made the adjustment, but it would have been a neat design to beat the double-team.

Aaron Schatz: Marshall looks great this year. I know age is going to get him at some point, and there was a good chance it was going to be this year, but so far so good. Duron Harmon complained about a push-off by Marshall but frankly he just got out-adjusted on the play. CBS had a hell of a time finding an actual replay that showed most of the route and demonstrated whether or not there was actually OPI on the play.

Patriots lose Sebastian Vollmer to a leg injury on their first drive of the game. He was carted off, and it looks to be pretty serious. Patriots were already starting their eighth different combination on the offensive line in this game. LaAdrian Waddle, claimed off waivers from the Lions a couple weeks ago, replaces him at left tackle. So I think the Patriots have now used Nate Solder, Vollmer, Marcus Cannon, Cameron Fleming, and Waddle at left tackle this year. At right tackle, they've used Vollmer, Cannon, Fleming, and Bryan Stork.

Jets offensive interior (29th in Adjusted Line Yards up the middle) slicing some surprisingly big holes through the Patriots defensive interior (15th in Adjusted Line Yards up the middle) in the early going, and on one play it looked like it took seven guys to tackle Chris Ivory.

Patriots strip Ryan Fitzpatrick and Jamie Collins runs it in for a touchdown. In a poll on my Twitter, readers seem to prefer "strip-six" to "fumble-six" as the fumble equivalent of a "pick-six."

With 11:00 left in the fourth quarter, Patriots are 0-for-5 on third-down conversions while Jets are now 5-for-11. Patriots defense is playing well but it seems like the Jets always have the ball, so eventually they're going to get the ball down the field a little bit. Also, I have to hand it to the Jets for breaking a lot of tackles, not normally a problem for the Patriots' defense. Good tackle-breaking moves by Chris Ivory, Bilal Powell, and Quincy Enunwa. When the Pats are on offense, Brady's constantly under pressure and the sack clock in his head seems off, he's just going down in crumples instead of throwing it away. I guess this is what it looks like when the Pats have nobody but Brady and Gronk left.

Andrew Healy: The Jets are doing a good job of trying to exploit Waddle at left tackle. On the Patriots' first drive of the fourth quarter, they used a stunt that Waddle flubbed to get a sack on third down. Then it was a corner blitz on the first play of the next drive. And the corner came right on through. Brady was under duress immediately on the third-down play and did a great job of getting off a pass on the dead run backwards to find James White on the first down.

Brady is under siege on almost every play. And now Waddle is down. Soon Ryan Allen will be playing left tackle.

Aaron Schatz: Muhammad Wilkerson is a beast today, and he's not going up against Waddle. He's beating Marcus Cannon, or the interior guys.

The Patriots actually march down the field, connecting with Rob Gronkowski twice on fourth downs, and then James White gets totally open on an angle route to make it 20-20. The Jets have so outplayed the Patriots today, you're wondering how on earth this game is now tied... but one good explanation is that the Patriots just got their first penalty of the entire game with 1:21 left in the fourth quarter.

But that penalty call, a highly questionable pass interference on Malcolm Butler that would have caused a Jets punt inside of two minutes, is an absolute killer. Looked like great coverage.

Patriots win the coin toss before overtime and they do the Scott Kacsmar thing! They elect to kick! I think they know that the defenses are dominating this game, and they are counting on nobody being able to score a touchdown in overtime.

Sterling Xie: But apparently Matthew Slater screwed up the coin toss. Instead of picking the wind, he just elected to kick. So the Jets get the ball, which is what the Pats wanted, but they don't at least get the advantage of the wind. Could be the difference given the gap in quality between Stephen Gostkowski and Randy Bullock.

Well, the decision backfired on the Patriots. Defense looked gassed on the Jets' overtime drive, as Quincy Enunwa had a 48-yard catch-and-run down the sideline on a slant-flat combo New York had been hitting the whole game. Malcolm Butler did a much better job on Eric Decker in the rematch, but got beat to the corner on the game-winning touchdown. The Jets looked like a strong candidate to get eliminated at the start of the day, but for once, things broke right for Gang Green.

Aaron Schatz: Pats coverage broke down in the overtime. A pick play got Quincy Enunwa free for a 48-yard gain down the left sideline. Then Malcolm Butler weirdly moved off Brandon Marshall and left him open for a 20-yard gain. Then Eric Decker 6-yard touchdown. The Jets were hardly moving the ball in the second half, but suddenly in overtime, they moved it easily. Now we find out in the postgame press conferences if Slater made a mistake by asking to kick or not. But I have a feeling that's what the Patriots wanted to do, and I really don't think it was a ridiculous move given how well the defenses were playing in this game.

Andrew Healy: Still not sure I like the decision there. The Patriots' protection stabilized on the last drive of the fourth quarter. And it's not like the Jets had no success at all moving the ball. You really want to take the chance of not letting Tom Brady touch the ball? It's a pretty close call, but I think he might have overthought that one. I'm guessing that the Brady-adjusted math says take the ball, too. It's still a top-ten offense even with Cameron Fleming playing left tackle.

Rob Weintraub: The league changed the overtime rules precisely to have this kind of a gray area when it comes to the coin toss (and to ensure the likes of Brady and Manning wouldn't stand on the sidelines without getting a chance to touch the ball, ironically). Before it was automatic to receive, but now it's not so much the case. I think I might've made the same decision to kick off as well. Just because the Jets offense woke up in overtime doesn't make it wrong.

Scott Kacsmar: You wonder if Belichick let the Denver overtime ending influence his future decisions. The Patriots, with Gronkowski out, really should have kicked off in that overtime on a snowy night, but received and went three-and-out. Denver didn't have a long field to go, and C.J. Anderson won it with that long run. I think he may have had a better case of receiving today, but I still think kicking off was defensible too in this situation. How often do you see New England just give up an 80-yard touchdown drive like that? Year after year we praise the defense for creating takeaways, getting red zone stops, and anything else that can be seen as bending without breaking. They just didn't get the ball back this time.

Vince Verhei: So Belichick has confirmed that he wanted to kick off to start overtime. Which spawned this awesome, awesome Tweet:

Houston Texans 34 at Tennessee Titans 6

Cian Fahey: This weekend feels like Week 17. There's no real drama with all the playoff spots pretty much decided on and so many backups playing. It's been a weird start to the 1 p.m. games.

Vince Verhei: You're giving it too much credit. This is more like Week 2 of the preseason. I can see five games right now, and the starting quarterbacks in those games include Blaine Gabbert, Matt Hasselbeck, Brandon Weeden, Zach Mettenberger, and Johnny Manziel. Now Hasselbeck is out and the Colts are down to Charlie Whitehurst. I'm also watching Ryan Tannehill, who may be playing the worst of that bunch on this specific day. Seriously the worst NFL regular season I can remember.

On that note, let's talk about Houston, which is just the nexus for terrible quarterbacks -- all lousy passers must play for or against Houston at some point this season, I think. They're going with Weeden, who was waived by Dallas in mid-November. They have also used B.J. Daniels, a wide receiver/quarterback who was signed off Seattle's practice squad six days ago, for seven snaps in the first half, including some critical red zone plays. (Ironically, it's Weeden who eventually scrambled for a 7-yard touchdown.) And these are the men Houston is forced to play because they cut Ryan Mallett, who is now starting in Baltimore. That's three quarterbacks (Weeden, Mallett, and Jimmy Clausen) who have all started at quarterback for multiple teams this season, which can't have happened too many times ever.

And yet, Houston is winning today and seems destined for the playoffs because DeAndre Hopkins has made a couple of big plays, and because the other teams' quarterbacks have been even worse, and that certainly includes Metttenberger, who has only 64 yards on 24 passes at halftime. I realize the Titans franchise is a long way from the glory days of Earl Campbell and Eddie George, but I'm trying to envision any way a game plan that has Mettenberger passing 24 times while the running backs get seven carries makes any kind of sense.

So with Tennesee's offense unable to do anything, the Texans are winning with turnovers. Quintin Demps returned an Antonio Andrews fumble for a touchdown, and Harry Douglas muffed a punt to set up a three-and-out field goal drive.

Tom Gower: I missed the first half and the first drive of this game, finally tuning with the Titans taking possession down 24-0. I could have blown off seeing some family members I hadn't seen in a couple years to stick around and watch, but figured what's the point. The score, how it proceeded (the Titans took over on the Texans 25 and punted in a scoreless first half), and the fun I had convinced me I was right. First possessions I actually saw: Titans third-down conversion negated by an offensive pass interference penalty, Mettenberger dumpoff on third-and-long taken away from the back for an interception, Nate Washington catches a touchdown pass over corner B.W. Webb to make it 31-0. Yes, I think I really did make the right choice.

I managed to watch almost the entire second half of the game, if only to see if the Titans would get shut out at home for the first time in my life. A touchdown on fourth-and-goal in the final two minutes means they did not, so that honor still belongs to the 1976 Steelers, at the end of their streak of giving up zero touchdowns in eight of nine games. The rest of what I saw? Not really worth noting.

Jacksonville Jaguars 27 at New Orleans Saints 38

Vince Verhei: This is the biggest story of the day, maybe of the year, and is totally going under-reported: The Saints gave up four touchdown passes to Blake Bortles today, bringing their full-season total to an NFL record 43, still with a game to go. This didn't even get mentioned in the ESPN recap (though they did put up a separate story).

Aaron Schatz: It's not even the biggest story of the day in the NFC South, though.

Vince Verhei: I totally disagree. The Saints blowing away a record, even a bad one, should be a bigger story than the Panthers failing to set a record.

Green Bay Packers 8 at Arizona Cardinals 38

Aaron Schatz: David Johnson is so elusive. I've got to think he's the starting running back for Arizona next year.

Rob Weintraub: We could well be seeing the Packers in a four-week palindrome. Arizona today, then the Vikings next week, then Minnesota again in the first round of the playoffs, and if the Packers win that one, the Cardinals again.

Remember -- familiarity breeds contempt.

Vince Verhei: Tim Masthay showed more patience and willingness to follow his blockers on that fake punt than I see from a lot of running backs on screen passes.

Andrew Healy: I also loved Masthay's patience on the fake punt. Thought it might not work and then he cut upfield at exactly the right moment. But that and a turnover that set the Packers up in the red zone still aren't enough to get the Packers on the board. Amazing what Aaron Rodgers is reduced to on these plays where nobody is open. On the interception by Justin Bethel in the end zone, James Jones barely runs a route and has no separation at all. As always. It looks even worse with that hooded sweatshirt.

And this is your Packers offense. 28 plays for 71 yards late in the first half. P-A-N-I-C.

Scott Kacsmar: It seriously took three weeks before the NFL figured out the Packers offense without Jordy Nelson this year. Now I don't want to just pin it all on Nelson, because I think that gives him way too much credit for the past success this offense has had. But they are clearly still struggling this year in many different phases, whether it's the accuracy of the quarterback or the ability to run the ball or hang onto it. The Vikings are really the only team I could see Green Bay beating the rest of the season, and that might include two games.

Aaron Schatz: I keep trying to figure out something to say in Audibles that points out that I'm actually watching this Packers-Cardinals game, but honestly, the Packers just look so overwhelmed in pretty much every way on both offense and defense, it's hard to pick out particular things. OK, Don Barclay looks like a backup left tackle, which he is. I guess that's one particular thing.

Vince Verhei: Why the hell is James Jones wearing a hoodie under his jersey? They're indoors, in Arizona. But he's got the hood flapping around behind his helmet, which has to be a uniform violation, and just gives defenders one more way to tackle you. That wouldn't be a horse collar tackle, would it? You can tackle guys by the hair, after all.

Aaron Schatz: I guess Jones is just superstitious about the hoodie at this point. Although somebody needs to tell Aaron Rodgers he's not going to come back from a 31-8 deficit with a bunch of 5-yard back-shoulder, YAC-free throws to James Jones.

St Louis Rams 23 at Seattle Seahawks 17

Vince Verhei: Whatever magic talisman the Rams possess that makes Seattle play their worst, is still around. First possession, ball gets snapped over Russell Wilson's head. Christine Michael alertly tracks it down out of the air so it's not technically a fumble, but it still results in a big loss and a three-and-out, which sets up a Rams field goal. Next drive, Will Tukuafu fumbles on a third-and-1, and Akeem Ayers scoops it up and laughs off some tackle attempts to put St. Louis up 10-0.

More dipshittery, from both teams. Rams punter Johnny Hekker, who went to high school in the Seattle area, gets called for a personal foul after cheap-shotting Cliff Avril from behind. Avril gave chase and was going to kill him, but Hekker ducked the shot. Then Wilson hits Michael for a big catch-and-run, but he was very clearly across the line of scrimmage when he threw, and the refs spotted it. Seahawks inexplicably challenged the call, and correctly lost the challenge. On the ensuing third-and-long, Wilson lobs up a deep ball to a double-covered Tyler Lockett, and whatever talents Lockett may have, at 5-foot-10, outjumping double-coverage isn't one of them. So Trumaine Johnson comes away with the pick, his fourth straight game with an interception.

Next snap after that, Case Keenum scrambles and slides, and Bruce Irvin comes in late with a shoulder to the head for an easy personal foul call. The drive eventually stalls when a busted Tavon Austin screen leads to a third-and-long incompletion. Kevin Smith returns the punt for Lockett. If Lockett's out, and Doug Baldwin's hammy acts up (he is playing, but was a game-time decision), then Seattle is down to three wideouts, and all of them (Smith, Kasen Williams, and Jermaine Kearse) are undrafted free agents who played college ball a few miles up the road at the University of Washington.

Best part of the game so far was on the punt, where Avril and Michael Bennett were both looking for a receipt on Hekker, who was smart enough to see them coming and just threw himself to the turf.

Kenny Britt beats Richard Sherman clean as a sheet on a deep fade for a touchdown. That specific route against Sherman almost never works, but Britt got even with him and then hit a gear Sherman just can't match. They miss the extra point, but it's still 16-0, and the Seahawks are going to have to try to come back without Marshawn Lynch, Thomas Rawls, Jimmy Graham, Tyler Lockett, or Russell Okung, and with a gimpy Doug Baldwin. Oh boy.

Aaron Schatz: And yet... it honestly doesn't matter. The Seahawks are in the playoffs and won't win the division. The only thing depending on this game is whether they get the No. 5 seed or the No. 6 seed.

Vince Verhei: Which means traveling to Washington versus traveling to probably Green Bay! That's a huge difference!

Aaron Schatz: OK. I meant it doesn't matter for Seattle making the playoffs, period.

Scott Kacsmar: The way the Packers have been playing, not sure which matchup is better for Seattle. Kirk Cousins and Jordan Reed could get hot against that defense. Washington's run defense has its moments too. Cousins threw the ball pretty well against Seattle on Monday Night Football last year. Rodgers usually struggles against this defense, which didn't have Kam Chancellor in Week 2.

Vince Verhei: Those points are all true, and Washington's biggest advantage would be Jordan Reed against a Seattle defense that has been terrible against tight ends two years in a row now. Still, given what we've seen over 16 weeks, I'd rather play Washington.

Baldwin and Lockett return to the field for Seattle and the Seahawks get a field goal to make it 16-3 at half time. Even that, though, required a helmet-hit penalty on Trumaine Johnson after a third-down incompletion, and on that play Luke Willson was sidelined and has not returned.

I should add that while the fantasy position injuries haven't helped, Seattle's interior line, which has been so great since the bye week, is getting shredded like pulled pork by Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers. Seahawks running backs have 4 yards on 11 carries.

Doug Baldwin somehow gets behind three Rams for a touchdown on third-and-19 on Seattle's first drive of the second half. He now leads the NFL in touchdown catches. I'm the guy who wrote that he wasn't a true No. 1 wideout in FOA. Well, so much for that. Even that drive, though, would have ended in a punt were it not for a roughing the passer call on Aaron Donald on a third-down stop. Wilson also took a helmet to the knee on a scramble and slide and came up limping. He's taking a beating today.

Crazy sequence extends the St. Louis lead. Benny Cunningham gets stuffed for no gain on third-and-1, but fumbles forward. The ball bounces right to Earl Thomas, but before he can reel it in, Rams center Tim Barnes dives in and takes it away, and that's a first down for St. Louis. (I thought the ball would go back to the spot of the fumble there?) Two plays later, Todd Gurley hurdles Earl Thomas inside the 10, but Jeremy Lane punches the ball loose. The ball bounces away from Lane, and Barnes is there to dive on the ball AGAIN, this time 20 yards downfield. Gurley runs it in shortly thereafter, and St. Louis is up 23-10.

Welp. Seattle's last two drives end when a fumbled snap turns a third-and-2 into a fourth-and-long, and then Russell Wilson fumbles away a ball after a scramble that would have been a first down inside the 20. It's raining like a mofo out there, which explains all the fumbles, but the Rams got every single bounce out there today. Game's not over-over yet, but at the two-minute warning, Rams are about to run a third-and-4, with a 13-point lead and Seattle out of timeouts.

Seahawks have now lost three out of four to the Rams, and in those three losses they have allowed the trio of Austin Davis, Nick Foles, and Case Keenum to complete 70 percent of their passes for nearly 8 yards a throw, with four touchdowns and no picks.

New York Giants 17 at Minnesota Vikings 49

Sterling Xie: Horrible game, but the broadcast just noted one point which stunned me. When Matt Kalil limped off in the fourth quarter, that was apparently the first missed snap of his entire career! He was nine short of 4,000 straight plays to start his career. That's pretty shocking to me given all the known knee issues Kalil has dealt with the past two seasons. One could also argue that ending the streak sooner might have helped him play a little better in 2013 and 2014. After watching Minnesota last year, who would have guessed that Kalil would've been the last man standing from the O-line?

Andrew Healy: NBC just showed that the 2015 NFC East currently has the worst record outside the division since the merger. I'm a little surprised by that since there are three non-terrible teams in the division. But if you were watching this one -- and with Giants fans in the family I sadly am -- you might argue with the Giants being non-terrible.

And maybe coaches need to ban hooded sweatshirts. As Jerick McKinnon runs through a Giants defense that isn't doing much, Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie's gray hoodie -- looking like George Costanza's workout gear -- is flapping behind him. 49-10 Vikings.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 28 Dec 2015

247 comments, Last at 31 Dec 2015, 10:26pm by t.d.


by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 11:54am

It's hard to judge these things from afar, but there certainly appeared to be a few Giants players who weren't really giving a professional effort, which can't be good for Coughlin. Of course, I said the same thing when the Giants were crushed by the Vikings at the end of the 2009 season, and two years later Coughlin was celebrating his second championship, so who knows?

Norv Turner deserves credit for minimizing the impact of the very obvious personnel deficiencies the Vikings offense endures. If Joseph, Barr, and Smith continue to have ther health improve, and the Vikings don't suffer any more significant injuries, they will be a competitive playoff team, even if they play Seattle again, in the first round. Their offense can function when the defense plays well.

Rodgers and Brady really are facing significant injury risk, given the state of their offensive lines.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:14pm

watching Rodgers struggle like he did yesterday under so much pressure sure makes me appreciate what Bridgewater has done this year.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:22pm

Even HOFers have a hard time being productive with bad receivers and bad protection, especially on the road. Just as a general footbal fan, I've really grown tired of watching inept pass blocking, on a league-wide basis. Which makes it all the more frustrating to see a bunch like the Cowboy's o-line win so few games. On a more positive note, I'm starting to watch the Redskins a little, and have been pleasantly surprised. I wonder if their o-line has actually been decent this year; it really is kind of fun to see them have success, such that it is, with their coach being in conflict with the meathead owner.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:30pm

Before the season GB's receiving corps was listed among the best in the league and the only change was swapping Nelson with James Jones.

I am not buying that the GB receivers are pedestrian. Adams has not played well and Richard Rodgers has not become any faster but if McCarthy would show some of that playcalling magic of prior years these things can be worked around.

Instead the team keeps using the same formations/plays every week as if nobody else in the league uses game film

Frankly, it's bizarre

As to the offensive line, sure there have been injuries. But that is the nature of the game. And Lang/Sitton have played the entire season. Losing your tackles for a game here or there should not be an excuse to crater

by Xexyz :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:40pm

Norv does the same thing; At least 75% of 1st down plays are runs by AP. It's gotten so predictable I bet they could run successful play-actions on 1st down at the beginning of the game.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:11pm

They could also end up with a lot more 2nd and 15s. I really think people consistently underrate the degree to which personnel dictates playcalling. The more good players an offense has, the more unpredictable playcalling can become. The Vikings offense is not blessed with an above average number of good players.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:45pm

One great or near-great receiver can really change the dynamic for an offense. I always remember how the 2004 Vikings offense, which was a bunch that blocked really darned well, became a lot more pedestrian when passing, when Moss was nicked up. Maybe playcalling is the bigger problem, but ya' know, when the big galoot in New England is off the field, Josh McDaniels suddenly becomes a lot less intelligent.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:53pm

A great qb can make ordinary seem special. Favre in his heyday never really had special talent at the wideout position but his greatness coupled with them being well coached and schemed made the receivers seem great

The qb and coach are not helping the cause as one would expect.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:04pm

Favre usually had good blocking. Now, I do think Favre is, somewhat weirdly, underrated, by people who focus on his shortcomings, and I think Rodgers may be a wee bit overrated in this era of passing numbers inflation, but only a wee bit. Yeah, he could play better than what he has over the past several weeks, and maybe McCarthy isn't at is peak, but I think it more likely that their larger problems lie elsewhere.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:06pm

I think we need an irrational Antonio Freeman vs Randall Cobb thread.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:08pm


See post further below. I list Rodgers as the last major item.

To my mind, the line of blame is headed by Mike McCarthy with a helping hand from the GM. This offense has not had a contributing tight end since Finley was hurt as one example

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:13pm

I think Ted Thompson, who I really do believe is above average at his job, is the most overrated guy in Green Bay.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:16pm


Well, drafting for arguably the best player in the league most seasons of his career at slot 25 counts for a lot.

And in the process destroyed his relationship with the guy who was currently holding that position.

Yes, that is a decade ago. But it has sustained the team's success

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:02pm

Having a qb who was projected, at oe time, to be a possible number 1 pick overall, become the 2nd qb drafted, after falling all the way down to 25, was huge stroke of luck.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:55pm

There were a lot of GMs who could have done the same who did not.

I understand the point of view of how the Rodgers opportunity was a matter of good fortune, but many good outcomes are predicated on someone recognizing an opportunity and acting on it.

Anyway, if anything made Thompson's rep this action was it.

That and the Matthews pick in 2009. Picking a guy who in his good years is in the discussion of Defensive Player of the Year that low is some pretty good work.

Again, that is also a few years in the rear view mirror.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 3:02pm

Thompson has put together a solid roster while keeping cap flexibility - those are all things to be applauded. The peppers signing, the slow development of mike daniels, the consistency within the coaching staff should all be applauded. I disagree with Will that it should be seen as a failure for only winning 1 sb. Winning a sb is bloody hard and its not like the packers haven't been close. A few years away from the manning era colts has made me appreciate their accomplishments. Theres a reason you have 1 dynasty a decade,

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 3:13pm

That isn't what I have written. What I have written is that if Rodgers' career is winding down in 5-6 years, and in 30 consecutive seasons (!) (!!) of having a qb capable of HOF-level play, the Packers have 3 Super Bowl appearances, and two championships, it would be fair to say that the GMs that followed Ron Wolf underperformed somewhat.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 4:48pm

idk - i just think expecting x number of superbowls is not something you can reasonably expect. Its tragic that the eagles decade of success is going to be entirely forgotten to history.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:20pm

I think over a 30 year span, some of the randomness of playoff outcomes, even in a one and done format, is weakened, with the benefit of HOF quarterbacking.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:25pm

Mike Sherman was a terrible GM. The Packers success from 2000-2004 was completely founded on Wolf draft picks.

Thompson spent several years cleaning up the mess. (2005-2007)

2008 was the transition year to Rodgers. 2009 they ran into Kurt Warner.

2011 the defense collapsed once Nick Collins got hurt, Woodson lost a half step overnight, and the pass rush vanished.

2012 the linebackers were undone by the read option.

The 2013 Packers were sabotaged by injuries. The 2014 Packers blew a golden chance due to things already discussed ad nauseum.

Not looking to sugarcoat things but the Packers had legit chances in 2007, 2009, 2010, and 2014. 2007 their vet qb threw up all over himself in the biggest game of the season. In the other two they were either outplayed (2009) or outcoached (2014).

Not defending TT. I am not one who thinks he is above reproach. But the team keeps getting close. They just have not regularly 'closed'

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:30pm

I think the existence of Mike Sherman means Will is correct. The Packers underachieved relative to their QB talent, unless McCarthy (or the next guy) significantly overachieves.

You have to wonder just how well someone like John Harbaugh would do with Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:58pm

Well, my assertion was decidedly conditional; if the Packers get to another Super Bowl before Rodgers is done, then I'd be a lot more hesitant to say their management has underperformed somewhat since Wolf left. I would not be surprised at all if the Packers appeared in 2 more Super Bowls, to say nothing of 1, before Rodgers is done.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:27pm

Just trying to understand what the proper level of achievement. You're usually facing other strong teams who also have really good qbs.

The colts won a single superbowl. Its sad how their legacy is written as a tragic disappointment.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 8:24pm

The Colts did not have 30 straight years of HOF quarterbacking. I'd say two conference championships per decade of HOF quarterbacking is a reasonable expectation.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 3:05pm

Look, I already said I thought Thompson was above avaerage. There is no getting around it, however. In a league where desperate teams use a top half of the 1st pick on The Ponderous One, or Blaine Gabbert, or E.J. Manuel, or Jake Locker, etc., etc., ad nauseum, not having the 2nd qb of a draft taken until #25 is really lucky.

by Duke :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:21pm

I feel like you shouldn't use Locker, Ponder, or Gabbert as indications of future anything. That year's draft (2011) featured so much weird thinking (at least partially because of the lockout) that the whole thing looks bizarre even by NFL Draft standards.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:23pm

There's nothing bizzare about it. If you don't have competent qb play in this league - you aren't making the playoffs(unless you play in the AFC South). If you don't have good qb play, you aren't getting first round byes. if you don't have really good qb play, you aren't a consistent playoff contender. No amount of Von Miller, JJ Watt, or Richard Sherman equates to good qb play. The fact that those players busted out doesn't mean the ex ante decision was poor.

by Duke :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:41pm

Yeah but the rationale behind those decisions that year was especially poor. If you remember, that was the year of the lockout, which meant that free agency was delayed and thus veterans couldn't be signed before the draft happened.

Which meant that you had franchises that didn't technically have full QB depth on the roster at the time of the draft. And several organizations (specifically, I think, Minnesota and Tennessee) stated that they were looking to draft a QB because they didn't have one on the roster and were afraid that they might not have any QBs when the season started.

Now of course, as anyone should have been able to figure out, if the season were going to be played (as it was) there would have been a free agency period (as there was) and since there was a certain amount of QBs available in free agency and a certain amount of QB jobs in the NFL, no team should have been afraid of being unable to field a QB for the next season. But some teams apparently did. And thus they spent valuable draft capital on a short-term need that wasn't really a need instead of going for long-term value. And because of that, players like Ponder and Locker got drafted higher than they should have (even given the QB premium) due to ridiculous need assessment by front offices.

They weren't drafted to be good QBs--they were drafted to be minimal quality QBs. And they were. I don't think they're representative of most draft processes, most years.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:49pm

I think Gabbert wasn't considered a reach. He was considered a legitimate prospect. I think Locker some teams probably could talk themselves into because he was considered a big time prospect the year before. Ponder was an absolute reach.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:58pm

"several organizations (specifically, I think, Minnesota and Tennessee) stated that they were looking to draft a QB because they didn't have one on the roster and were afraid that they might not have any QBs when the season started."

If this is true, any franchise that conducts itself this way, even during lockout years, is so poorly run they're going to fail in some way anyways.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:02pm

It was after Ponder was drafted so high that Spielman was given full GM power, which leads me to believe that it was organizational dysfunction, with very murky lines of authority, which led to that terrible decision to simply draft a qb because a qb was needed, regardless of it being a bad year for qbs.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:35pm

I don't understand yur post. In the 10 drafts after Rodger was taken at 25, 23 qbs have been taken higher than the #25 spot. There has only been two years where there was not at least two qbs taken before the #25 spot. Rodgers was thought to be a viable pick at the the top of the draft; it was an odd set of circumstances which resulted in him being available at #25.

by Duke :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:51pm

Minor point #1: I have Rodgers picked at #24 in 2005

Minor point #2: There are only two drafts with the second QB at 24 or later (2010 & 2013), but there are two others with the second QB at 22 (2007 and 2015) and one at 18 (2008). Of course, 18 ain't 24.

My main point is that 2011 was a strange draft and shouldn't be used as an example of "this is how NFL drafts work". Teams did strange things that year.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:08pm

But the Packers themselves were also dealing with an odd set of circumstances. They were a contending team and TT had the guts to spend a first round pick on a QB instead of using it to fill another hole. If you want to say, "Yeah, but Favre was old and they needed to draft a replacement anyway", look at how the Colts made no effort to replace Manning (in an effort to get another ring) or how Patriots fans get annoyed at the team for using 2nd and 3rd round picks on QBs every few years. There was a signifiant loss of near-future impact for the Packers when they made the Rodgers pick. Sure, the fans and owner(s) like it now, but Thompson took a big risk using that pick on a QB who would not contribute until 2008.

Also, though it was thought that the number 1 pick would be him or Smith, neither was thought of as a slam dunk pick. A lot of people had doubts about Rodgers due to issues with accuracy in college and the fact that he came from Tedford's system. No one knew he'd be this good. Most signs pointed to him being another JP Losman.

I often think that we hold some of these front office guys in too high regard (see: all Trent Baalke worship), but TT deserves a ton of credit for picking Rodgers. That being said, he should be criticized for AJ Hawk, Justin Harrell, Derek Sherrod, Brian Brohm, etc.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 8:28pm

My point was that it was fortunate to have the 2nd qb taken fall to #24, especially since Rodgers was thought to be a potentially much higher pick.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 10:19pm

Right, and by saying so you're implying that it doesn't take much skill to make that pick. Or that it's so obvious it should be discounted. Rodgers fell for certain reasons and could have kept falling if the Packers didn't pick him. You could use the same reasoning to assert that, in 2007, the Cleveland Browns were lucky to have the second quarterback (Brady Quinn) fall to 22, especially since it was thought he'd be a #1 pick.

I don't even really disagree with you that TT may only be above average. Who knows and how would we even measure? However, pointing out his best decision as a GM and chalking it up to "good fortune" ignores that it's the exact kind of decision that successful GMs are supposed to make.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 10:41pm

No, you are imagining that I am implying that. I am not.

by Snack Flag :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 11:47pm

"Having a qb who was projected, at oe time, to be a possible number 1 pick overall, become the 2nd qb drafted, after falling all the way down to 25, was huge stroke of luck." - you said that above

"Look, I already said I thought Thompson was above avaerage. There is no getting around it, however. In a league where desperate teams use a top half of the 1st pick on The Ponderous One, or Blaine Gabbert, or E.J. Manuel, or Jake Locker, etc., etc., ad nauseum, not having the 2nd qb of a draft taken until #25 is really lucky." - and continued with this line of thinking shortly after

When you say that TT is the "most overrated guy in GB", then unambiguously point out that his best move is "a huge stroke of luck" and "really lucky" - and you do not make any mention of the skill involved with that move - I'm not sure what else I'm supposed to infer.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 12:47am

I didn't write that he was above average because I admire his silver-haired dignified appearance.

by Snack Flag :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 1:46am

Man you move those goalposts fast

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 2:05am

I have no idea what you are talking about. In my first post about Thompson, I said I thought he was above average. Why do you suppose I wrote that?

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 2:13am

Some of the grumblings at the time was TT wanted Favre moved out of Gb, which given how events unfolded, was probably true to some extent. In any event, do we give credit to bill polian for drafting Peyton Manning or Grigson for drafting Luck? Frankly, I think if TT really knew Rodgers was this good, he would not have taken a chance of letting rodgers fall to 24. Praise TT for lots of other reasons, but drafting of Rodgers feels less about his acumen and more about Rodgers being great.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:26am

Well, look, it takes some guts to move away from Favre, and Thompson did that and succeeded. So kudos to him.

by Snack Flag :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 11:43am

By this logic, no one should get any credit for drafting good players.

My issue with wills "rarely are only two qbs drafting before 25" comment is that it treats players like commodities rather than humans. Different drafts have different sets of players and within those drafts, players have different sets of strengths and weaknesses. It's up to each team to move around the draft and target players that fit within their system.

TT deserves credit for picking Rodgers because other teams didn't. Every other team in the league could have picked him or traded up to get him, but GB got him. They looked at the player and found him to be worth the risk at 24. Not only that, they corectly projected that he might be available at their pick. Please compare this to my Browns example - literally the same thing happened when they picked Quinn. They thought they saw the same type of talent and they were insanely wrong. TT and his staff had a correct evaluation of their pick where the Browns did not. I do not choose to chalk that up to luck.

Sure, Grigson had less of a challenge picking Luck, but don't forget that some people thought they should take RG3. I would add that Grigson gave his qb weapons to ease his transition. TY Hilton, Allen, Fleener were all in the same draft and they've been contributors. He deserves credit for not completely ruining his investment (though we'll see where that's headed). TT did the same with Rodgers. He's, for the most part, usually had a pretty good line and a top 5-10 receiving corps.

by Snack Flag :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 11:21am

I'm obviously challenging your repeated comments that specifically address the Rodgers pick. Since you do not want to engage the points that I make regarding that pick, you have to move the discussion somewhere else. Your general opinion on TT is not what you've been repeatedly defending.

I mean, I quoted your actual comments that I disagreed with. I have no idea why you elect to be deliberately obtuse rather than just admitting your hyperbole was misplaced.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 1:00pm

Again, I am at a loss as to how you employ language, and there is great irony in your accusation of a choice to be intelectually obtuse. Read extremely carefully. I said I thought he was very fortunate to have a qb, who was thought to be a viable candidate for the top of the draft, become the 2nd qb taken, all the way down at #24. I said this because it is unusual for the 2nd qb to be taken that low, and many qbs have been taken higher (Ponder, Locker, Quinn, Flacco, Freeman, Gabbert, Weeden, Manuel,Tannehill, Manziel), just since Rodgers was drafted, despite never being considered worthy of consideration for a pick at the top of a draft. The position breeds desperation in drafting, and due to some fortunate circumstances, there was an ebb in qb drafting desperation that year. This is not hyperbole, and it is really bizarre that you cannot grasp this. To top it off, you seem to be unbale to understand that my critical assessment of Thompson is quite mild, since I have repeatedly stated that I think he is above average at his job, and have also said he deserves credit for being willing to risk moving away from Favre.

Yes, I said I also think he is the most overrated guy in Green Bay. That's what happens with success in very small samples of work, as drafting, especially drafting qbs, necessarily entails. The work which is successful is attributed far too much to the innate quality of the worker's output.

by Snack Flag :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 1:38pm

I have no issue with your critical assessment of Thompson. I actually made of point of saying that I'm not addressing your general opinion on Thompson.

I also have made repeated comments that specifically dispute why it's not "fortunate" for Rodgers to be there at 24. If you think so, you must also think it's "lucky" to pick Brady Quinn at 22 or Johnny Manziel at 22 or Brandon Weeden at 22. You insist on separating the location of where a player is selected from the team(s)'s evaluation of the player. That's not how the draft works.

Also, in your argument, you're assuming that teams don't talk to each other and don't have a general idea of how the draft will play out. They don't have 100% transparency, but teams that draft well have a sense of where players will be drafted and who will be available to them. That's why trades happen.

If you really think that teams, even the worst ones, spend millions of dollars and countless man hours on scouting players and then throw darts at names on draft day, then enjoy. That's essentially your point when you say there was "an ebb in qb desperation", as if it's a random occurrence. A lot of teams scouted Rodgers and didn't think he was worth a first round pick. GB did.

by big10freak :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 1:52pm

The only person in the GB leadership who believed in Rodgers was Thompson. Mike Sherman wanted nothing to do with him and was livid that Thompson 'wasted' a draft pick.

Just sharing

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 2:08pm

If you don't think qbs are evaluated diferently from other positions, in terms of where it is deemed worthwhie to pick one, relative to how their talents are evaluated, you aren't watching drafts very closely.

You also seem to be unable to understand what it means that Weeden was the 4th qb taken at 22, and that many people thought Manziel was not worth picking until the third round or later. That's the point. QB picks are often made in desperation, which means it is fortunate that a qb many considered to be the best availabe in the draft lasted until 24.

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 2:19pm

You can throw in Brady quinn who had a very similar story to Rodgers. He was talked about as the first overall pick, fell to the late twenties. Almost no one remembers the gm who took him(It was phil savage I think).

by Snack Flag :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 2:28pm

Of course QBs are evaluated differently from other positions - they play a different position! That doesn't mean teams just pick them at random "Oh, our guy is already taken. I guess we should take this other guy?" If their decision is wrong, like Ponder, that only means they incorrectly evaluated the player. You somehow think it means that they don't care who the qb is as long as they pick a qb. You're ascribing desperation to teams with no evidence to back it up.

And you are making my point when you mention that Manziel was thought to be a third round pick by other people. Teams have different evaluations of players. If other teams thought that Rodgers was more valuable than the 24th pick, they would have drafted him above the 24th pick. Teams that draft poorly take players like Manziel too high while teams that draft well take players like Rodgers with the 24th pick.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 2:58pm

Yes, teams take risks on qb picks, in terms of performance projection, that they do not at other positions. To say otherwise is to display innumeracy. There is one qb out of 22 starting offensive or defensive players, or .0455. Yet teams have have, since expansion to 32 teams, used .0893 of first round picks on qbs. This is what desperation looks like.

It is somewhat astounding that this requires explanation.

by Snack Flag :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:24pm

It doesn't need explanation, but you can continue to talk down to me if it helps you feel superior.

I understand the rarity of QBs and their importance to football. That does not completely remove them from the economy of the draft. If anything, it supports my point, as teams include the importance of the position in their evaluation. And even with all that said, Green Bay was the only team in 2005 who thought that Aaron Rodgers was worth the 24th pick (or higher) in the draft. You chalk this up to random factors whereas I'm of the opinion TT and his team had a better evaluation of the player.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:33pm

It is amusing to have you tell me about the need to talk down to people, after you tell me that I'm being intllectually obtuse. Here's a clue, Dale Carnegie: if you like a conversation to maintain a civil tone, keep a civil tongue yourself. It is somewhat astounding that this requires explanation.

If you want to maintain that qbs being taken in the 1st round at twice the frequency, as their percentage of players on the field, is not indicative of teams being, on average, more desperate to obtain qbs, go right ahead. If you want to maintain that such deseration does not make it fortunate that a qb who was generally though to be at worst, the 2nd best qb available, and thought by many to be the best, was available at 24, go right ahead.

by Snack Flag :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:51pm

I started off with a fairly innocuous comment that was perfectly polite. Any venom in my later comments was in response to your snide, dismissive retorts.

I'm not maintaining anything about the frequency of QBs being picked because it's an argument that is neither here nor there. Teams don't pick "QBs", they pick human beings who play football. These human beings change every year. Comparing how many QBs are picked in one round one year vs. the same round the next does not tell us much. The circumstances are not the same year over year. You keep removing the humans from your equation because you must, on some level, be aware that your argument falls apart as soon as we acknowledge that front offices have differing skill levels just as quarterbacks do.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:10pm

If you are actually going to argue that the frequency with which qbs are taken in the 1st round, relative to what percentage of players they comprise on the field, is "neither here or there" when evaluating the likelihood of any particular qb being still available at any particular spot in the 1st round, then our discussion is pointless. I have never said or implied anything which indicates that I am not acknowledging that differences in skill levels among front offices exist. In fact, I explicitly stated the opposite, by repeatedly stating that I thought Ted Thompson was above average at is job.

I truly do not understand how you are employing language or logic. Have a nice day.

by Snack Flag :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:13pm

"If someone doesn't understand what I am saying, they must not know how to employ language or logic." - Will Allen

"If I don't understand what someone else is saying, they must not know how to employ language or logic." - Will Allen

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:21pm

Um, no, that isn't what I wrote, but since you are inaccurately claiming that I did, I'll be generous, and simply assume that your are illiterate, insead of making an uncharitable assumption about your willingness to be dishonest.

by Snack Flag :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:34pm

Haha okay. Really intelligent and thoughtful comment there, Will. Shows a lot of self-awareness for how often you lean on the "you don't understand language and logic" crutch.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:09pm

As to how Favre is regarded, that is the result of the blowback from Madden's gushing nature toward Favre and guys like Paul Zimmerman taking it upon themselves to highlight every misstep ever made by number 4.

Yes, it is very strange.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:21pm

Favre is a complicated case because he was a great qb that had very selfish tendencies.

by Jerry :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 8:03am

"Mooks, Galoot. Galoot, Mooks."

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:51pm

"Before the season GB's receiving corps was listed among the best in the league and the only change was swapping Nelson with James Jones."

This might be like noting before the 2005 Vikings season that the prior year their receiving corps was listed among the best and the only change was swapping Moss for Williamson.

I don't think Nelson is Moss good, but he was a good #1 receiver and James Jones was a street free agent at the time the Packers brought him back.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:26pm

GB has definitely tried to change the offense, I'm not sure what to tell you. They're running more formations with WRs (not-quite) stacked inside the numbers than I can basically ever remember under McCarthy, with the goal of getting free releases off the line of scrimmage. They brought back WR screens, which they haven't run regularly in years, to at least try to get the ball in the open field. They've embraced the pistol, which they only turned to last year when Rodgers was hurt—more of a running game change than a passing game change, although I think it has been a big help to their RB screen game.

You're right that there are problems all over. I do think gameplanning has been poor, especially in the middle of the season. There are more than just rumors of Rodgers and McCarthy not getting along, and Rogers flat out isn't playing well. At the end of hte day, the root of it is still that they essentially don't have any receivers that can beat man coverage, especially down the field. The offense becomes so limited under those circumstances.

by Boots Day :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 3:47pm

It is a testament to how great Aaron Rodgers is that he has thrown 30 touchdowns against only seven interceptions this season, and all anyone can talk about is how poorly he's been playing.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 3:53pm

I agree with you(something tuluse below reminded me) - Rodgers isn't have a poor season. Its just a down year compared to his usual lofty standards. I think that result has been pretty surprising.

by t.d. :: Wed, 12/30/2015 - 12:41pm

I live in Jacksonville, and at the end of his tenure here, Coughlin's players had tuned him out. Turned out, the team would've been better served unloading the players and keeping him. I suspect Philadelphia might have similar regrets about the Andy Reid split. The Giants have a lot of holes, but Reece seems at least as culpable.
Minnesota seems very well coached, and they really ought to beat Green Bay, but how has that changed from a month ago? Rodgers, unlike Brady, isn't afraid to hold the ball, and it seems like a really bad idea with this offense

by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/30/2015 - 12:55pm

When the Vikings played the Packers in Minneapolis last month, the Vikings defense played a very undisciplined game, which is quite unusual for them. When the Vikings defense doesn't play well, and the opponent has talent on defense, the Vikings offense is completely hopeless. If the Vikings defense plays smart, I think the Vikings will win, along the lines of 23-16, or 20-17. If they don't, I think they'll lose by something like 31-13 or 27-10. T

by t.d. :: Wed, 12/30/2015 - 10:40pm

Seems like Denver laid out the blueprint for suffocating the Packers, if you have adequate personnel, and the Vikings defensive personnel is superior to the Packers offense. I've been on the fence on Bridgewater (thought Carr and Bortles have performed better with less talent), but he's really impressed me down the stretch (going toe to toe with Arizona shorthanded on the road is as impressive a performance as I've seen from the young guys)

by tuluse :: Thu, 12/31/2015 - 2:27am

"Seems like Denver laid out the blueprint for suffocating the Packer"

Just be the most talented defense in the league by a healthy margin. Got it.

by t.d. :: Thu, 12/31/2015 - 10:26pm

Nah, Arizona can't be the best defense if it's Denver, and they used the same formula (press man by the cornerbacks, make Rodgers stay in the pocket). Others have pointed out that McCarthy is reluctant to use man-beater stack formations, it does seem like McCarthy is stubborn to a fault

by RickD :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:18pm

If the Patriots put out a tweet like the Jets did, the media would be ripping Belichick for being a petty jerk all week long. But it's cool to rip Belichick.

And Vince thinks it's "awesome awesome". Loving the double standard.

by Led :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:24pm

C'mon, nobody thinks the HC of any team runs the twitter account.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:26pm

Do you really care about tweets, the reaction to them, and hypocrisy about reactions to tweets? Seriously?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:38pm

The tweets reflect the opinion of the organization. Do you think the media would allow the Patriots official Twitter account to taunt an opponent they had just defeated?

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:58pm

They would call them on it, as they called the Pats on it when they tweeted about the Buttfumble before the first game this year (which was a little more obnoxious, as well as foolish). So, RickD, you are correct to point out a media bias against the Pats. By the way, Belichick has acted without class after a victory: I'm pretty sure he said some insulting things in press conference after a Pats blowout victory in week 2 against the Jets in 2002. That I have to go back to 2002 to find something like this is a testament to the Pats organization; you should be happy you root for the Pats, instead of a team owned by a guy named Woody, or one with an accused criminal at quarterback.

On another note, I feel that Coin Loss is an appropriate nickname for this rather minor game in Pats history.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:09pm

Nobody should have any inhibition about rooting for any team, no matter of what manner of murderer, multiple murderer, child beater, rapist, vehicular manslaughterer, wife beater, girlfriend bearter, dog torturer, etc.,etc., ad nauseum, that team has employed. This is all irrational, and as long as one admits that, and isn't such a lackwit as to actually think that a team's win says something positive about the fan, or the fan's community, then root away!

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:02pm

I don't care about tweets, reactions to tweets, or hypocrisy about reactions to tweets, that don't involve the legal definitions of slander or libel, so I have no opinion about that which you ask me.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:32pm

It was great in its simplicity.

And no, I doubt anyone would be 'ripping' NE in a similar situation. Though I don't believer that is how the NE organization rolls in terms of social media.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:43pm

Wouldn't surprise me if Bowles gets mad about that tweet. Marshall said in an interview that he didn't want as much celebrating after the victory as there was, and most of the team seems to have taken on the personality of Bowles, who's only gloating in an interview is a smile while speaking.

by Led :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:22pm

One other consideration re: Belichick's decision to kick is that the Jets had guys open downfield all game. Fitzpatrick's characteristic inaccuracy more than 20 yards downfield prevented numerous big plays, including what should have been a game winning TD at the end of regulation. By kicking, you run the risk that Fitzpatrick actually hits on one of those to end the game. But still, I can see the argument for kicking. The Pats only had one TD drive the whole game and needed to convert on 4th down twice to do it. Odds are good that even if the Jets moved the ball they'd play for the FG, giving the Pats a shot to win or tie. But the Jets played...to...win...the game. (Hello!)

I think much less defensible was the decision to run the clock out at the end of the 1st half. I understood playing it safe at first. But once they got to the 35 with about 1:30 left they were in great position to get another 3 points or pin the Jets deep if they had to punt. Very odd choice. The Vollmer injury clearly had Belichick spooked.

by duh :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:41pm

Well given that they were playing a guy they picked up off waivers less than 2 weeks ago at LT I wonder if he doesn't know enough of the playbook to go hurry up?

by RickD :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:46pm

The last three drives of the Jets were
6-and-out (which would have been 3-and-out without a dubious game-saving PI on Butler.)

In contrast, the Patriots' offense had exactly one TD drive the entire game.

At the very least, the decision to kick is defensible. The claim that the Patriots' defense was "gassed" is utterly fictional. You don't get gassed from a 3-and-out.

Two things bother me. One is the "outcome validates criticism" attitude by a lot of the media. But a second thing that bothers me is when Brian Burke looks at his simulations and models of football possibilities and says the decision was a mistake because, on average it would be a mistake. But that's not how real people make decisions. Belichick has to make a decision conditioned on his units playing against the Jets units, not based on random offense vs. random defense. Burke should know better than that.

If you're in a situation where the defense is playing well and the offense is not playing well, you want to put the defense on the field first. Force a punt quickly and your own offense only has to get a FG.

That the secondary would fail horrendously on the second Jets' play was a risk but there was the opposite risk with the Patriots taking the ball. The Patriots' offense really did not perform well against the Jets' defense yesterday. Thinking another TD would be easy seems like delusional thinking.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:54pm

This is my problem with a lot EPA/WPA analysis of decisions. I agree that they are a reasonable starting point, but the EP and WP comes from analyzing lots of teams with personnel different that the one making the decision and the one the person making the decision is playing against. Unless the EPA/WPA is egregiously against I think it is sufficient by itself to determine whether something is a mistake.

On the other hand, I think it is really good for describing how well or badly a decision went. It may have been the right decision and still lead to a poor result.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:04pm

One thing that no one is figuring into the equation is the relative strength of special teams for both the Pats and the Jets. Forcing a punt may mean getting a massive return, or a shank. And a turnover on a kick return is possible as well (not when Gostkowski booms the kick off though). The Jets already lost a game that way this season.

by PeterJMoss :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:53pm

I think looking at a larger sample size than the last 3 drives would be smart.

by ZDNeal :: Thu, 12/31/2015 - 10:05am

This is exactly the problem. Frequently you do want to look at that sample size. If you want to assess the true talent of the relative squads, then yes you do want a large sample. But if you want to assess how they are playing at that specific moment it isn't necessarily helpful to look at what they did weeks ago. These samples aren't discrete and unrelated. It's not like picking a bingo ball, temporally local events can really affect the next event. And almost certainly inform the next event. If a key player gets an injury that isn't severe enough for him to be pulled, but does affect his performance that information is missed in a "large sample".

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:26pm

I thought the GB defense played pretty well for a good part of the game given that the offense was completely inept.

The d-line was getting a good push, they made Palmer move off his spot, and Daniels made a great interception which of course was converted into nothing.

MM has long been regarded as a great playcaller and Rodgers is no slouch but this season has been their worst collaboration to date. MM refuses to accept that his offense has limitations, and his quarterback is missing guys that in prior years were not missed. There are certainly drops but Rodgers is also off the mark much more frequently. And he is not seeing the open man as in prior years leading to coverage sacks.

Now yesterday Campbell just wrecked the interior line but there were still opportunities missed before the team was playing with both backup tackles at which point things became a disaster.

Don Barclay has bad feet but can get by at right tackle. At left tackle he's overwhelmed. Add in MM's abject refusal to provide tackle help and well, you see the results.

Another lost season of number 12's career. Not fun

by Led :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:45pm

Rodgers threw one of the best passes, in terms of degree of difficulty, I've seen all year yesterday and it resulted in an incompletion. The 3rd down cross field pass to Adams in the first half, dropping it in the bucket perfectly against Peterson for what should have a first down, was incredible. Just draw dropping. I know Rodgers isn't having a great season from a statistical standpoint, especially by his standards, but in my view he still throws the ball better than anyone in the league.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:53pm

That pass was ridiculous. Almost all the way across the width of the field, against his body, and drops right into the receiver's gut over the defender. Just incredible.

by Al Hirt Hologram :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:43pm

I thought they should have challenged that he got the 0th foot down.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:51pm

It's heresy at the Packer chat sites but Rodgers seems to be something of a priss about who he throws the ball to on a regular basis. It's one thing to have a Sterling Sharpe like Favre did at the beginning of his career and constantly feed him the ball. But Cobb is not Sharpe. Guys like Janis and Abbrederis have been open but to date Rodgers throws in their direction more as a last resort. Over and over again Packer fans are told about the need for the qb to trust the receiver and Janis' issues with routes and similar stuff.

Part of me is wondering if Rodgers simply does not agree fundamentally with the offensive philosophy and that schism is impacting his play. Not suggesting he is openly sabotaging the offense. But something is clearly amiss. He's not married so he has no possible divorce distracting him nor some sick child issue. (Type of thing that may not get discussed but could obviously be a concern away from the game)

Rodgers has really only gotten out of his funk when the team falls way behind and the o-line can still block (CArolina/Detroit) Even against bad defenses (Chicago for one) Rodgers was still looking like it was 2008.

Just really strange. And if it is a disconnect between 12 and MM then Ted Thompson needs to have one serious intervention after the last game is played.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:34pm

Relative to how little Abbrederis has been available to even practice over the course of his career, he's getting a decent amount of reps. They were more than happy to work in Ty Montgomery this season before he got hurt.

Sadly I think it's more likely than not that Janis legimitely isn't an NFL WR. I would still give him more reps than he has been getting, because why not. (And Davante Adams is a waste of a spot on the field.) But Janis has offered nothing when he's been in. When they've let him try to run deep routes, he's shown no awareness of how to use the space downfield to get himself open, and he doesn't appear to have good instincts adjusting to the ball.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:40pm

I understand that to some extent but how can a team gameplan in one game to throw Adams the ball about 20 times and never really commit to other guys?

I don't think it's reasonable to use such a limited data sample on a guy like Janis when he clearly has the physical ability to play the game and plays with passion. He's not going to get better playing special teams or standing on the sideline.

This is the risk averse nature of the coach/qb working against the team. Janis may have a longer growth curve. But he's not going to get there unless you accept throwing him the ball may have a downside.

That and he's the one guy who can behind the defense.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:23pm

I think the 20+ target Adams disaster was more of a product of who was covering Adams than anything else—a street FA in his first start right? And they consistently left him on an island! They didn't adjust though after it became obvious Adams would not be able to get open or make contested catches.

You're right that I'm judging on a small sample size, and I do agree that there's no reason for them not to work in more reps for Janis given the state of their offense. But the main thing that the Pack lack right now are receivers who can produce on the outside—the X and Z spots (I believe). Even with his speed, if Janis can't actually get open or run the rest of the route tree, he won't help them much there. Maybe they could try stacking him in the slot with Cobb or running more 4-5 WR sets, but I think they have tried at least a little bit of that already without much success.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 12:58pm

My sympathies to Patriots fans for having to endure watching LaAdrian Waddle play tackle. When he's not getting bullrushed 5 yards into the backfield or whiffing on spin moves, he's getting hurt. I only watched bits of Jets/Patrios, but I'm sure he did all three at some point yesterday.

by duh :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:08pm

It has been a long time since the Patriots have had below replacement level play at LT for any stretch of time. Sure looks like that is about to change. Man Waddle was awful.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:49pm

I realize that the Pats offensive line getting shoved around is shocking, but they were playing possibly the most talented 3-4 D line in the league, and still gave up 2 sacks. Compare it to what happened to Rodgers yesterday. Perhaps Bowles will switch the tape to the Arizona game to get his team to work, saying, you were playing a bunch of 3rd string guys yesterday (other than Cannon), why can't you do this like my old team?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:15pm

It's generally agreed that pressures are more important indicator for line play than sacks, since the QB has at least half the responsibility # of sacks taken.

Rodgers has always taken a surprisingly high number of sacks for an elite quarterback, which also helps keeps his interception totals low (yes, him being great also contributes to low # of interceptions).

by RickD :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:52pm

That's one way to look at it. Another way to look at it is that the Pats only had 1 3rd down conversion all day.

In its current state, the Patriots' offense isn't good enough to beat talented defenses, of which the playoffs will have many. Yes, Edelman and Amendola are coming back, but if Vollmer is gone, it's very hard to see the team getting far in the playoffs.

I don't even want to think about Waddle.

by techvet :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:08pm

Wasn't Waddle the guy who came off the bench in the second Lions-Packers game and almost immediately got penalized for a false start or similar?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:29pm

Yes, that's him. The Lions offensive line has improved quite a bit from simply having him out of the starting lineup.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:00pm

To be clear I am not stating Rodgers 'is' the problem with the GB offense. Only that he is contributing to the problem.

In order I go:

--coaching (because it's their job)
--the cipher that is the tight end position
--Lacey's inability to bring the same energy to each game on even a remote basis
--receiver drops
--offensive line injuries (which after the one early injury to Belaga which the team handled the other issues are only of late)
--The highest paid guy on the team not playing to that level

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:22pm

the decline of the GB pass offence is really kind of remarkable. I believe they have averaged less than 4 yds NYA in the last 6 games. In the first 6 games of the year they were one of the better passing attacks in the league. And it's not like the competition early on were weak defensive teams (Sea, Stl, KC).

Skill position guys are all the same, how many oline injuries have they had? I know there has been a lot, but curious as to which ones were the most damaging.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:36pm

The right tackle was out to the start the season but the team won all their games with the backup so that was not a hindrance

Over the last 5-6 games various guys have had to sit out with the center position going back and forth but both those guys have played capably if not above average. Yesterday the left tackle missed the game from the start and then when Belaga went down it became a train wreck.

Sitton is battling chronic injuries and has not played his best of late on run blocking.

Really the line is suffering from poor tight end blocking more than anything coupled with not having a capable left tackle backup.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:40pm

that's a lot of change. The Vikings lost two guys in pre season, but have had the same line all year otherwise. They aren't great, but staying together must help. They also get a lot of help blocking from extra TE's - in particular Rhett Ellison is probably a better pass blocker than both of their Tackles.

by dank067 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:49pm

I think what he means is that while yesterday was a disaster, the line situation has not been that bad this season and is not the primary reason their passing offense has struggled so much this season. And I would agree.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:51pm

Yes. Thanks

by Al Hirt Hologram :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:02pm

I think a big part is other teams drafting better and/or GB drafting worse. They used to get a huge amount of value out of late round and undrafted players. In recent years those players are playing more like you would expect.

by johonny :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:15pm

Mia-Colts Stephen Ross's take an empty seat to the game promotion appears to have been a success. Miami's oline was dominated by the Colts d-line all day. The Colts were reduced to running the 400 year old Gore as their only offensive option without a QB. This turns out to have been enough. The Colts will likely have a better season next year with the return of their QB. Miami seems to be demonstrating what an NFL team looks like without a head coach, offensive coordinator, or defensive coordinator. I know Miami is lacking talent, but its impossible to really get a handle on which parts are missing and which aren't because of the total lack of coaching and roster management. AFC east update. The Pats lost a division game and prediction of the end of time probably should be delayed until after next weeks complete destruction of the Miami Dolphins. The Jets might make the playoffs. The Bills won't, again. The Dolphins aren't watchable. No one should go to watch the Pats-Dolphins game next week. There is too much to do in life to waste it on that game.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:18pm

Quick thoughts on one of the "I watched it so you didn't have to" games (in this case Bears-Bucs):

1) People seem optimistic about both franchises, but right now these are two bad teams. This stretch from the 3rd quarter summed the game up for me: i) up 14-13 at the Bears 12, under heavy pressure Winston heaves a jump ball to the goal line, intercepted by the Bears; ii) Bears run three times and punt; iii) Tampa muffs the punt and recovers; iv) on the next play from scrimmage, Doug Martin loses his 2nd fumble of the day. I.e., TB tries to turn the ball over on three consecutive touches, while the Bears futilely run into the line but at least don't fumble. Advantage: Bears.

2) Winston played reasonably well (though his stats look much better than they should due to a garbage-time hail mary TD), but he left three or four really important plays on the field. If he was a bit more accurate with his deep passes, that game could have been a blowout in favor of TB.

3) The game was called by Sam Rosen and Matt Millen, which gave it a weird 90's vibe. I've always liked Millen as an analyst, and he was fairly solid except for bizarre over-the-top praise of Jay Cutler. He must have repeated 10 times that Cutler was playing not just a solid game but tremendous, spectacular, etc. I'm a huge Cutler backer, but as far as I could tell, all he did was avoid throwing any interceptions that were not called back for unrelated defensive penalties and make a couple nice plays with his feet. Granted, that's all he could do with a WR corps of Marc Mariani and the empty husk of Eddie Royal.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:42pm

I only watched a bit of it due to traveling, but managed to see Wondering miss deep on three deep passes, including two in consecutive plays. Winston's deep balls haves consistently been pretty terrible.

by Duke :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:30pm

I was thinking about this while traveling home yesterday...the Bears look better than they did last year, but I'm still not seeing how they're going to be a good team, anytime soon.

They seem, to my eye, to be missing a lot of top-end talent, and it's hard to add that. To put it another way: I've heard people talk about how certain players could be part of the next great Bears team, and I agree; but I don't really see anyone who's going to be make that team great. Not really anyone who is going to be the guy that you point out as a guy who affects the game; just solid players. Who is on the Bears team now that is going to be a star for the next great team? Alshon Jeffery, maybe?

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:45pm

Jeffery, Long, McPhee have all played at a very high level either this year or the previous. Maybe Kevin White?

Other players like Cutler, Willie Young, Forte, Langford, nearly the rest of the offensive line have played at a semi-high level this year.

You're right they need to add top-end talent, and that's hard. They basically need a draft like 2003 again—where they got Briggs and Tillman. Obviously, that's a long shot, adding two young probowl defenders, but it is a possibility. Also, Kyle Fuller—while I wouldn't consider him good—has been developing. He was more consistent this year than his rookie year, and I wouldn't rule out watching him develop into a good player. Again, unlikely, but within the realm of possibilities.

by Duke :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:02pm

Yeah, I forgot about Long. He should be able to find a niche either at guard or tackle and be very good. McPhee, I'm not sure because I have trouble tracking him on TV and I haven't heard much from him lately...but he could be good, I guess.

Young I thought about too, and Langford seems like he's good but maybe only in doses.

Cutler and Forte have also been good, but I doubt they're going to be a part of the team when it's good again. Forte is almost certainly leaving in FA, and who knows what Cutler's future will be.

You can call me a pessimist but I've kind of given up on Kevin White already. I didn't like him when they drafted him (Playmaker score affected that a fair amount, honestly), and missing a whole year of development makes me nervous for a guy who was already kind of raw.

Fuller I am hopeful about, and I think he's getting better and can become solid. I would be surprised if he becomes good but it's possible.

When I look at the contenders this year, even though they're deep with good players, there's always a few players who are special and dominate the game. I'm not sure who that is on the Bears. We'll see if they can find those guys.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:28pm

Jeffery can definitely take over a game and has done so in the past (as recently as the San Diego game this year). The problem is that he's been healthy for about four games total over two years.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:35pm

He also made the Lions look comically inept on defense (unfortunately the Bears were themselves comically inept), and played a key role in beating the Packers on Thanksgiving.

by hector :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:32pm

It's one of my favorite FO flowcharts.

Did Kirk Cousins play well? YES ---------> Did Fahey comment on Cousins ------> NO

At least this didn't stop the other FOers from discussing a stand-alone game with playoff implications. In other words, they're not lost in the Confirmation Bias vortex.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:57pm

Cousins played well. But perhaps the best news from Sunday was that the Seahawks lost. They were headed for the #5 seed but now mostly likely will be the #6. The last three Redskins' playoff games are all losses to Seattle. It's a bit of a weird streak, considering that it goes back to 2006. It's gotta be rare to have four consecutive playoff games against the same opponent.

Seriously, the Redskins have a good offense. Cousins and DeSean work well together, and Jordan Reed is a good threat, as is Pierre Garcon.

And thankfully we don't have to talk about Cousins taking a knee to end the first half. When the Redskins were inside the Eagles' 10-yard line. Because he had a brain fart and took a knee instead of spiking the ball.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:15pm

Seahawks can get the #5 seed if they win at Arizona and the Vikings lose at Green Bay, so maybe a 25% chance or so?

I love trivia like the Redskins/Seahawks recent playoff history. Thanks for bringing that up.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:39pm

"Typical letdown game on the road where they think showing up is all they had to do to win. This has been going on for years under Mike Tomlin. "


I remember a few years ago when people ranted that I was idiotic to claim Tomlin was a crappy coach. I mean, he won a SB, right?

The standard is the standard!

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:30pm

78 guys have coached at least 120 games in the NFL. 11 of them have a better winning percentage than Tomlin. Tomlin's personnel has certainly been good, but certainly not historically great.

Look, you may hate some of the stuff that Tomlin does, and Tomlin may not be great himself. The word "crappy", however, has a definition, and to say that the guy with the 12th best winning percentage, of those guys who have coached 120 games, is "crappy", indicates that you really don't grasp the terrfically difficult challenge entailed in being a head coach of an NFL team.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:40pm

What is his winning % after 2010 or so (AKA when most of Cowhers great players departed or fell into decline)?

A lobotomized cockroach could have coached the team to the success level he had in the first 4-5 years.

What you have seen the last 4-5 years is the REAL capability of Tomlin as a coach.
And if you think it's "12th best" ever, that's a damning indictment of pretty much everyone else who has ever coached in the NFL.

His tagline (signature) has proven true. No more playoff wins.

The standard is the standard!

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:53pm

Read what I wrote. I wrote 12th best winning percentage of those who have coached 120 games. This assertion has the modest virtue of 100% accuracy. If you want to cut the sample size in half, in order to lend weight to your opinion, well, by golly, you just go right ahead and do that.

I'll leave alone for now your, er, interesting implication, that the NFL is a place where "pretty much everyone else" not named Mike Tomlin is below average, as it pertains to head coaching. Look, I understand. You believe what you believe. Have at it.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 4:37pm

For the record ... Tomlin's regular season record

2007 - 10-6
2008 - 12-4
2009 - 9-7
2010 - 12-4
Total - 43-21 (0.672% - same as Bill Belichick)

2011 - 12-4
2012 - 8-8
2013 - 8-8
2014 - 11-5
2015 - 9-6
Total - 48-31 (0.607% - in with Bill Walsh, John Harbaugh, Tom Landry)

Both halfs of that career look pretty good to me.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:01pm

Yeah, it'd be one thing if you simply railed against the guy's deficiencies. He has them, like all coaches, and if you really are bugged by them, so be it. If you want to say he is overrated, so be it. To say that the indisputable record is something that that a "crappy" coach is likely to have produced, however, is just nonsensical. Really, giving Cowher credit for 2010, when Cowher left after 2006, is also very, very, bizarre. "Tomlin is Infallible" has had a some smart things to say about football, as he did with his previous FO username (which escapes me), but when it comes to the current head coach in Pittsburgh, he's pretty much unhinged. Very puzzling.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:48pm

Fire Omar Tomlin?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:12pm

That's it!

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:42pm

so basically after the main core of Cowher's team either (aka Tomlin has the guys HE wants in the defense now):

was cut

the Steelers perform ~9.7% worse and have not won a playoff game , managed only 1 division title, despite still having a top 5 QB and arguably the best receiver in the NFL.

is going .500 against .250 or worse teams during that run the mark of a well coached team?

The standard is the standard!

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:17pm

The Steelers have been 10% worse only because Tomlin's first few years were Belichick-level good in terms of winning percentage (in a much tougher division, as well). Since the Cowher talent left (did Cowher even have personnel control, though?), Tomlin's winning percentage is still at the Bill Walsh and John Harbaugh level; that's pretty damn good.

He's not a perfect coach, but having seen the Bears jettison the equally frustrating Lovie Smith and falling from perennial playoff contender to perennial also-ran, be careful what you wish for.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:37pm

although it's a slightly smaller sample size, Barry Switzer inherited a stocked SB winner and went .625 (.714 in the playoffs)

I don't see anyone championing him as a good (NFL) coach.

The standard is the standard!

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:18pm

Barry Switzer coached in 64 games. Mike Tomlin has coached in 143 games. Your use of "slightly smaller", like your use of "crappy", is indicative of a use of the english language that is unfamiliar to me.

by Dired :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 4:58pm

He's believed it since Tomlin was hired, and has kept it up regardless of evidence for or against. I've honestly never known anyone that obsessed over a coach they dislike in any sport.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:40pm

the only team to have pissed away a better championship window in my lifetime is the Buffalo Bills, who really didn't bring it on themselves.

there is no reason this team so consistently shoots itself in the foot in clutch games other than

1) bad luck
2) bad coaching

how many other teams has Ryan Mallet beaten in the NFL?

The standard is the standard!

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:11pm

Were you born in 2010? Because the Steelers have won two Super Bowls since Rothlisberger showed up, you can't say they wasted a championship window the way the 1980s Chargers, 70s Vikings, or 90s Bills have. How can you compare the plight of Steeler fans to Bills fans, who haven't rooted for a playoff team in 16 years? Talk about First Quarterback problems.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:20pm

Just for the sake of discussion - pre -Manning injury, Jim Caldwell's coaching record was sterling. That didn't stop most of us, accurately I might add, for being skeptical about his "contributions" to the colts. The post Manning injury did a good job of showing us how much value his coaching brings.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:33pm

You have a point there, but I really doubt Tomlin is in Caldwell's class (as I noted below). I'm also reacting to griping by a fan fortunate enough to have celebrated two championships in his lifetime, so I'm overreacting.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:36pm

Yeah that's fair. Longer discussion about tomlin - those aren't his schemes they are running in Pitt, so I legimately wonder what his contributions to the team are. I suppose hes a good team leader/organizer. I do agree though - scott and the poster above act like the steelers are the only good team that blows games they shouldn't. The seahawks just got beat by the rams with case keenum AT home. The cardinals got beat to the steelers with mike vick at qb. The patriots lost to the eagles at home.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:51pm

"those aren't his schemes they are running in Pitt, so I legimately wonder what his contributions to the team are."

This is a pretty ridiculous line of reasoning. Bellichick has been praised for how flexible his schemes have been. Tomlin went with the schemes that work for his team. His job is to manage the people underneath him, not to line guys up.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:01pm

Do we really know how much his "management" is elevating the roster/ the roster needs his management. At least the coaches who impart their schemes I know are bringing something tangible to the team.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:04pm

As I said, that's ridiculous. It doesn't matter how many games a coach wins as long as him monolithically imposes a scheme so you can see he's doing something.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:21pm

Tuluse - how do we tell what a coach is doing? Is it really wins? IF that's the case, the lions got a steal by hiring caldwell. Similarly, somebody mentioned Switzer - who should still be coaching. It also worth pointing out that no one hired bryan billick after he was fired from the ravens.

At least with schemes, I know that's something specific the coach is doing for the team. I don't think its prohibitive, but I note that the steelers were a pretty strong organization with a set drafting philosophy that existed well before tomlin got there. Sure, he deserves credit for preserving those schemes, but...how much credit?

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:33pm

Well first, you need a minimum sample size for wins to be useful. I'd say somewhere around 80 games coached and it tells you something.

Secondly, you could look at more advanced stats that tell you how well a team played. DVOA if you like it, but there are others out there.

You can also look at changes in either win and losing or advanced stats. Did the coach start doing better than the previous one? Was there a dip as he took over, but then improvement as he got buy-in and molded his players and schemes together? Or did the team get worse (Caldwell Colts treaded water for a year than had their worst year with Peyton in a very long time).

Looking at schemes tells you nothing about how well an NFL head coach does the following things: identify player talent, motivate players, teach players, identify coaching talent, letting your assistants actually do their jobs, etc.

What scheme did John Harbaugh bring to the Ravens? What scheme did John Fox bring to either the Broncos or the Bears? Hell, what scheme did Bill Cowher bring to the Steelers since we're talking about them? What scheme did Don Shula bring to the Dolphins for all 20 years he was coaching there?

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:41pm

All fair comments. This dovetails with what TomC wrote below - we don't know. Here's my (strange) criteria for judging coaches - I take a subjective view of their talent and their schedule and decide if they have overachieved based on expectations. Vegas odds can be a good proxy for this as well.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:45pm

You can get too caught up in trying to see if a team overachieves though. I bet the Patriots haven't over-achieved Vegas odds too often because they're expected to do so well in the first place.

You'd have to create some kind of Expectation-Adjusted Achievement Over Average.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 9:24pm

The issue here is that Vegas odds should have coaching ability factored in. So it's hard for a coach to out-perform Vegas if he is already regarded as a very good coach (and vice-versa for a poor coach).

by Theo :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 7:38pm

He does.
What talent did Tomlin get in the defensive backfield? They line up Antwon Blake every week. Just that tells me there's something broken.
Since Polamalu went from MVP level to 'just running around' level, not many guys were found, trained or picked up.

Then the horrible time management and the idiotic go for it or not decisions tell me he's just an actor playing NFL coach. He acts it well - players run through a door for him - except when the team they're playing sucks. They piss away games versus the Raiders, Ravens and oh so many sub .500 teams.
Then don't get me started on the 'don't blink' / 'coach with my gut' / 'take what they give us' one-liners.

He's a very good at acting to be an NFL coach. But as a coach - he's trash.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:28pm

Ok, here is a list of teams who would not improve by hiring Tomlin instead of their current coach:

New England,
Kansas City,

Maybe the Jets, Bengals, Bills, Broncos and Raiders would be better off not hiring him. Those are pretty iffy maybes. So perhaps ten of the current head coaches in the NFL are better than him right now. That means Tomlin is still better than half the coaches in the NFL, and is quite possibly the sixth best coach right now.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:42pm

I may differ with your list, or simply say that it might be longer. My issue was with the use of "crappy" to describe a pretty long track record of accomplishment. It's ridiculous, and frankly, insulting to the entire profession.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:45pm

I don't know. I think Baltimore definitely belongs on that list. The Ravens had a down year (partly due to injuries), but Harbaugh still has to be one of the top 5, if not top 3, coaches in the NFL.

I would say the teams that have better head coaches than Pittsburgh right now would be:

New England
Philly (assuming someone else takes over GM duties)
Green Bay

New Orleans

So I would put him at best probably around 17th, and most likely somewhere around 20th or so.

He seems to be burning a lot of talent on that team.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:52pm

I don't uderstand, at all, the assertion that Chip Kelly is a better coach than Tomlin. It seems to be a baffling statement.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:01pm

Frankly, I don't get Coughlin, Lewis, Rex Ryan, or Gary Kubiak either. Do people not realize how many games Tomlin has won?

Even Sean Payton seems like a stretch.

And Bowles, Arians, and Zimmer are looking good now, but let's wait until they've coached a few seasons before as the saying goes, crowning their asses.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:22pm

I think Marvin Lewis should get a lot of credit for the bengals making the playoffs 5 straight seasons. I can agree with RR and Kubiak.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 8:40pm

Yeah Lewis has done a great job recently, though most can't see past the lack of playoff wins. He's not had elite QB play, also had his coordinators poached away, but overseen consistently good overall performance, and this year significant improvement.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 8:46pm

He also went 4-12 with Carson Palmer.

He is in a bad/strange situation with the cheapest owner in the league, but to act like his record is sterling is ignoring everything that happened prior to the last 5 years.

By contrast, Mike Tomlin has never had a losing season. Ever.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 9:04pm

Yeah, I specified his recent record. And 5 years is a pretty long time. To suggest that recent record (with said cheap owner) is anything other than highly impressive is being overly influenced by a tiny sample of playoff games (or just being plain stubborn).

Put it this way - if Lewis suddenly became available he'd be snapped up immediately, and likely have his pick of location.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 9:51pm

I don't disagree with any of that, still not sure he's better than Tomlin though.

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 9:55am

Tomlin would get snapped up really quick too, which was my point. I did forget Baltimore on my original list, and skipped over the NFC North, so it was inaccurate, but I really think Tomlin would be considered to replace even Marvin Lewis if he was available, even though that would be unfair to Lewis, who has done a good job in Cincy.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:24pm

I'm ready to crown Arians now.

It's a lot more impressive to build a good team from scratch rather than inherit a very good team and continue having success, IMO. I wonder how many coaches would fail given a HOF QB, great WR corps, and great team defense like Tomlin was. PIT's D has been mediocre since 2012 (and flat out bad in 2014), so it doesn't really seem like Tomlin has done much with that unit since then.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:34pm

The variance of opinions on this thread reinforces to me that none of us really understands 100% what coaches in the NFL actually do. Are they primarily personnel managers, responsible for hiring good coordinators and maintaining good relationships among players and staff? Are they primarily teachers, responsible for taking the raw material of college football players and developing them into competent NFLers? Or are they primarily schemers / play-callers / game-day tacticians? A perfect coach (let's call him Will Felchiak) would be great in all of these phases, but it must be the case that one of them is more important in most NFL HC jobs.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:42pm

Santiono Holmes and Hines Ward were pretty good, but I don't know if I'd go so far as "great".

However, plenty of coaches have failed with somewhat similar situations: Mike Sherman, Steve Mariucci, Mike Martz, and Chan Gailey all come to mind.

by jonnyblazin :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 8:20pm

I'm not sure those situations are really comparable.

Mike Sherman inherited a 8-8 team, then went 9-7, 12-4, 12-4, 10-6, 10-6, making the playoffs for 4 years before having a 4-12 season. That doesn't seem like failing any more than Tomlin's lack of a single playoff victory since 2010.

Same thing with Martz. He inherited a great offense (I don't think their defensive personnel was all that good), had several good years and made it to the super bowl. His regular season record was .624.

Mariucci lost his starting QB (Young) after going 12-4 and 13-3 with him, so I don't see how that's an apt comparison.

Gailey inherited a 6-10 team that was previously good but Switzer had already demolished. He promptly went 10-6 and 8-8 and made the playoffs both years, so I don't see that as a failure either.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 8:44pm

Well it's degrees of failure. Since Tomlin was in a situation where he apparently couldn't fail.

The question wasn't good teams, it was HoF QB, good receivers and good defense. I suppose the Rams were a bit of a stretch.

by big10freak :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 9:51am

Mike Sherman was a pretty good coach.

But Mike Sherman was beyond horrible as a GM. Mike Sherman couldn't spot young talent to save his life. If you had put JJ Watt in a room sitting next to the Minions Sherman would would have appreciated the Minions teamwork attitude and drafted them.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 6:38am

this guy gets it, at least sort of.

what he is missing is that the terrible D is Tomlin's creation.

his buttboy Antwon Blake only got benched (finally) last week.
literally the worst CB in the NFL. and he kept starting. and he kept getting targeted and abused by the opponent. and we repeated. and repeated....

The standard is the standard!

by Snack Flag :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 3:02pm

"Buttboy"? Are you 10 years old? This is why it's hard to take your opinions seriously. It's incredibly sad that you think this is an acceptable way to insult/criticize someone as we approach 2016.

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:00pm

Not really surprising as Tomlin Is infallible displays all the symptoms of an irrational fanatic. So no matter how many posters try to explain that Tomlin is in fact a pretty good coach the arguments bounce off him/her like teflon. Derogatory name calling is part of the package.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:07pm

"Tomlin Is infallible"

name calling? you mean like getting mine wrong for some intentional reason?

The standard is the standard!

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:09pm

5 years no playoff wins with a HoF QB.

what other "good coaches" have that on their resume?

The standard is the standard!

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:25pm

George Halas with Sid Luckman. Don Shula twice with Johnny Unitas and Bob Griese. Hey but don't let that stop you.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:36pm

so of all the "good coaches" in the history of the nfl, 2 matched this pitiful level?

rarified air indeed.

The standard is the standard!

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 5:09pm

We just live in a different universe. In my universe being mentioned alongside George Halas and Don Shula is enviable not pitiful

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 5:37pm

Mike Tomlin: As Crappy as Halas and Shula!!*

*No, I don't put Tomlin in the same class as Halas or Shula, but this audibles thread may be the all-timer, in terms of irrationality. Along with hurling the examples of the number 1 and number 2 coaches, in terms of all time wins, as "evidence" of a current coach's crappiness, up above it is asserted that the frequency with which qbs are drafted in the 1st round, relative to the percentage of players of the field who are at that position, is "neither here or there" when evaluating the likelihood of any particular qb being avaiable at a certain spot in the 1st round. Why, if I didn't know better, I'd say football fans are prone to stake out positions, and hold to them, evidence be damned!

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 6:33pm

I threw out Halas and Shula because the whole point of 5 years with a HoF Qb was so inane. There are only 25 QBs in the HoF currently (excluding Jim Finks). I mentioned Unitas, Griese and Luckman, but 11 others went at least 5 years without a playoff victory. That’s 14/25.

I don’t need to tell you Will but Fran Tarkenton didn't win a playoff game until his 13th year in the league. Dan Fouts didn't win a playoff game in his first seven years in the league. Warren Moon didn't win a playoff game between 92 and 98 but that was for 3 teams so obviously not the same coach. John Elway went 5 years between 92-96 but that was for Reeves and Shanahan. Joe Namath only won 2 playoff games in the one season. Sonny Jurgenson only had 12 career playoff passing attempts. George Blanda didn't win a playoff game for 5 years 62-66 when he was primarily a QB. Y.A. Tittle never won a playoff game. Norm Van Brocklin didn't win a playoff game between 51 and 59. Bobby Layne didn't win a playoff game between 54 and 62. Sammy Baugh didn't win a playoff game between 1945 and 52.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:04pm

Nope, I'm 11.

The standard is the standard!

by Theo :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 7:48pm

the point still stands though, Antwon Blake is perhaps the worst defender I've seen starting in a steelers uniform week after week after week after week.
They had Boykin on the bench mind you.

Tomlin is not a good coach. He has a HOF QB, great line of receivers (Ward, Holmes, Wallace, Brown... not to mention Heath Miller.)
He got a great defense. Turned it into a on and off and sometimes frustrating defense.

Then I read people mention Tomlins number of wins or whatever... I think that's mostly the players, and not Tomlin.

by MJK :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 1:03pm

Looked at Tomlin a bit closer. My impression of him had been a guy that inherited a well coached smoothly running organization from Cowher (one of the better coaches I can think of) with a future HoF QB, a fair bit of offensive talent, and a great defense, and that he coasted on that for a few years and even won a SB, Barry Switzer or Pete-Carroll-in-New-England style (although Carroll didn't win a SB with Parcells' team), and then his own coaching prowess emerged, which was a good but not great head coach with some fundamental flaws.

Part of my opinion of him is due to being a New England fan, and frankly, the Tomlin-led Steelers have never been the thorn in the Patriots side that other teams in the AFC have been (cough...Ravens), or nearly the opponent that the Cowher-led Steelers were. Tomlin is 2-4 against the Patriots, and one of those wins was in 2008 versus Matt Cassel.

Did a little more looking, and I'll revise that opinion a little. He fielded good teams longer than Switzer did in Dallas or Carroll did in New England, so I think a little more highly of him than I did. He's probably between the 11th and 15th best coach in the league right now. However, the disturbing thing about him is what has happened to his defense. Most good coaches have ups and downs as personnel changes and injuries plague a given season, but Tomlin's defensive trend has been real and disturbing. His defense was elite for about 4 years after taking over from Cowher, and has gotten progressively worse since then, although this year will be a tick up from where it was.

So I'll still stand by my definites:

Belichick: Duh

Harbaugh: This should be obvious to everyone as well. Much as I dislike the Ravens, Harbaugh has to be one of the top 5 coaches in the league.

Lewis: Not amazing, but solid, has longevity, and his team has improved steadily (albeit very slowly and incrementally) over his entire tenure. Cincy has now made the playoffs for 5 years straight, something few coaches ever manage.

Reid: I've always been a Reid fan. He has his idiosyncracies, but he put together very good Eagles teams for many years, and has kept KC competitive despite limited talent.

Coughlin: Again, I may be biased by being a Patriots fan, but every time the Patriots play the Giants, I see a wonderfully coached and prepared team. He certainly has had his ups and downs, but has had some amazingly good runs, with two different teams. Also, in both cases, he took over terrible teams and built them up, unlike Tomlin, who inherited a Cadillac. He may be on the decline now, but I would still hire him over Tomlin. I agree I may be in a minority here.

Kelly is a terrible GM. But as a coach, he's innovative, which I don't see in Tomlin. If I was looking for a coach, and had a competent GM to pair with him, I would hire Kelly in a heartbeat over Tomlin.

McCarthy: Again, I think this would be obvious.

Rivera: Used to hate the guy, now I think he's come around and I would put him in the top 5 among active coaches. Love his aggression. Love the way he builds his team to his player's strengths rather than try to put round pegs into square holes. His teams always seem motivated and play hard.

Arians: In the running for coach of the year this year.

Carroll: I hate Pete Carroll, but have to admit that (finally) he's a pretty good coach.

by Led :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:28pm

I'm with you on all of this (especially Harbaugh) except for Coughlin. The Giants team he inherited went to the playoffs in Fassel's second to last year and 2 of the 4 years before Coughlin was hired. It had talent. He proceeded to lose 10 games in 2004 because he benched a decent Kurt Warner for a terrible Eli, on a team with Tiki Barber, two WRs good enough to get to the playoffs multiple times with Kerry Collins as a QB (Amani Toomer, Ike Hilliard) and Shockey at TE (who was 5th in DYAR in 2003). The Giants then underachieved so badly over the next 3 years that Coughlin was on the verge of getting fired until the miracle playoff run in 2007. They had a good year in 2008. Since 2008, with an above average QB, they've won 10 or more games and made the playoffs exactly once. So Coughlin presided over two of the flukiest Super Bowl runs in history and otherwise has underachieved. He deserves credit for the SBs, to be sure, but the overall body of work is unimpressive.

by duh :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 6:02pm

A couple of comments on Coughlin, he also had a pretty good of amount of success with the Jaguars as well prior to coming to the Giants. I have a feeling though he's a guy with a 'time limit' as it were, that after a while his message no longer gets through.

The other comment is I'm not sure you can call Warner 'decent' the year Coughlin benched him. He was 25th in DVOA, 6th in sacks despite only playing 10 games (starting 9) and tied for 3rd in fumbles. Eli wasn't ready but it also could be that the front office wanted him to play as well...

by Led :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:13pm

Coughlin is not a good coach any more. Not sure he was ever that great, to be honest, but I would take Tomlin over him now for sure. And Bowles, Kubiak, Zimmer, Payton (and Lovie Smith, who is a darn good coach). Not sure about Rex.

by Mr Shush :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 10:59pm

So far, I think it's hard to view O'Brien's coaching performance as anything but encouraging. His teams are 17-14 with Fitzpatrick, Mallet, Keenum, Hoyer, Yates and Whitehurst all having starts (multiple starts, in the case of all but Whitehurst) after taking over a 2-14 team. The Texans have won games with each and every one of those guys under center. Sure, the talent on defense helps, as does the AFC South, but serious work has gone into manufacturing some semblance of offense with that parade of incompetence at QB. Obviously after 31 games he's still in the "maybe" pile, but it's not immediately obvious to me that many coaches would have done better; I'm almost sure Kubiak would have done worse.

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 10:01am

I can understand the optimism, but Bowles has gone 10-5 with Fitzpatrick as qb this year, and Fitz was above replacement level last year. Jettisoning Fitzpatrick when you don't have anything better is on O'Brien, as well as the GM.

by Mr Shush :: Thu, 12/31/2015 - 6:21am

If I was a Jets fan, I would also feel pretty encouraged in a small, early sample by my team's head coach.

I also think there's very little to choose between Fitzpatrick and Hoyer (the c. 7% difference in DVOA between 2014 Fitzpatrick and 2015 Hoyer is mostly about the health or their offensive team-mates, for my money) and that they are both pretty bad - in the sense of marginal starter/excellent back-up, not replacement level player. That Bowles/Gailey and O'Brien have been able to get average-above average efficiency out of them is just another reason to think well of those coaches (though clearly Hopkins and Marshall, and indeed Brown and presumably Ferguson/Mangold, have had a fair bit to do with it too).

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:48pm

Ive seen about 7 packer games this year and outside of the sea game, im really at a loss to explain this. Yes the injuries are a big part, but this long of a malaise is still pretty hard to believe. The last time a qb i really think highly about struggled for this long was rivers in 2011. Im just going to chaulk it up to an off year by #12, something i incredibly never thought possible.

As for yesterday, i actually think that was mostly the o line imploding. Rodgers takes a lot of sacks, but being sacked 8 times in three quarters says a lot about the line's play.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:50pm

I have to point out that Rodgers's "off year" is still 12th by DVOA. Also, I assume you mean 2012 for Rivers when he was 22nd in DVOA.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:54pm

2012 was the nadir. 2011 was the first big dropoff from his usual stellar level of play. Also i bet dvoa drops even more after this week. Frankly, Rodgers not being in the top 5 in dvoa is a surprise for me, such is my view of him as a qb

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:57pm

I agree outside of the top 5 is surprising, but it's not really tire fire that some are making it out to be. Top 5 are Palmer, Big Ben, Brady, Dalton and Wilson: it's not really too shabby to be lower than any of them.

Now producing worse than Tyrod Taylor, Derek Carr, Kirk Cousins, and Jay Cutler, that's concerning.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:51pm

This may sound surprising given the offense only scored 1td all game and it took a bunch of 4th down conversions to get there, but i thought brady played pretty well. Ive been the first to point out how terrific the pats protection has been for brady through his career, but yesterday it was absolutely horrid. Injuries basically killed bradys mvp bid.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 1:59pm

kicking ofg in ovettime when have choice not to is awful decision in 2015 football witgh anti-defense rules nfl currently has in place. if Browns heac colach or jagausr one dikd this thing, guy would be pelted with rotten eggs and msrahmallows getting off plane. but belichick did it so some people make excuses for him

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:00pm

I can't be the only one that thought that the Ravens-Steelers result possibly played a role in the Patriots coaching staff maybe not caring quite so much about the outcome of their game with the Jets, given that a Jets win goes a long way toward keeping the scariest QB out of the playoff field in favor of Fitzpatrick, and given that the Patriots are highly likely to get the 1 seed anyway.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:11pm

Totally wonder if this was the plan. Why else would they just kneel with 33 seconds left?

by Travis :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:29pm

Maybe they kneeled at the end of regulation because they had only 25 seconds left with no timeouts at their own 20 and they couldn't block for any deep passes?

The Patriots half-assed the end of the first half against the Eagles as well without any reason to tank the game.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 3:23pm

I'm sorry, I'm a Jets fan who's used to the Belichick who goes for the jugular. I doubt Belichick intended to lose the game, I'm just surprised at the decisions he made in it.

by Scott Kacsmar :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:13pm

I definitely thought about that.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:18pm

I mentioned pregame in the kota chat that their starting lineup looked like they were trying to help get the Jets into the playoffs

The standard is the standard!

by greybeard :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 4:08pm

They are not playing just against the QB.
Is PIT really a scarier opponent than Jets? Especially considering that Patriots lost to them once and their win was not easy, whereas they won the PIT game so much easier? Is PIT so much scarier than Jets that the Patriots would risk home field advantage?

by duh :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 5:16pm

Well, I think the idea that the Patriots would tank this game to keep the Steelers out of they playoffs is oh, let's say unlikely but yes, PIT is much scarier than the Jets due to the fact that Ben could have a day that regardless of what you do he's unstoppable.

That doesn't mean he will but the possibility exists that no matter how well you play, no matter how much you scheme he could still go out and torch your team for 400+ yards and a bunch of TDs. I don't think you have that kind of visceral fear with Fitz.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:02pm

Absurd to think the Pats would tank a game simply to let the Jets advance ahead of the Steelers in the standings when a win would have locked down the #1 seed. Any perceived advantage gained by shuffling the other playoff teams is hugely overweighed by the loss of a potential "rest everybody" game against Miami.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:14pm

That's all true, it's just hard to understand Belichick going the passive John Fox route when he's usually so aggressive (and correct in doing so).

by Led :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:27pm

The best explanation I've seen is in the thread above (duh at #12). Belichick may have had no faith in the ability of the 3rd LT of the day to perform in hurry up mode.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:38pm

I suspect part of it was being down to your #5 option at LT, and not having any receivers and few RB's. Winning would be nice, as it would have given a "rest everybody" game at Miami next week, but wouldn't offset an injury to Brady. Hard to run a good 2 minute drill when you're thrusting a backup backup in at LT and don't have the skill players to get rid of the ball quickly.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:01pm

Couple of items I disagree with Aaron's take on the Jets/Pats game. I felt the pass interference penalty was just, but Jets fan bias here, agree to disagree. The Jets offense did shut down in the fourth quarter when trying to run out the clock, but they still scored 10 points in the second half, same as the Pats offense. They also had over 300 yards of offense in regulation, compared to under 300 for the Pats. Kicking off to start overtime only makes sense if Belichick expects a big play from his defense; they already gave him a touchdown, but there weren't any other turnovers besides that, and the Jets had just drove to the 50 and missed a touchdown on 3 and long. I doubt Belichick chooses to kick off to start overtime in the playoffs. Also, the Enumwa play wasn't a pick, he just is big and surprisingly fast with the ball (had a 99 yard touchdown at Nebraska).

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:05pm

I thought it was a (legal) pick live, and was complaining that it was exactly the sort of play the Pats have been unfairly penalized on all season. Then I watched it over again a few times and realized that no, it was no pick--he was just so elusive on that play he made the defender(s) look silly.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:09pm

Enumwa would have great potential if he could cut down on the dropsies. To be honest, he's the H back, meaning he's the closest thing to a decent tight end the Jets have right now, so Enumwa breaking a couple of tackles shouldn't be that surprising. Too bad Idzik passed on Martavis Bryant to get him.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 3:27pm

Was just reading some articles on ESPN and it was pointed out that part of the problem on that play for the Patriots was that the guy supposed to be covering Enumwa on that play was Tavon Wilson. Enumwa of course made him look silly. Wilson is the Patriots #5 safety, and almost never plays on regular defense--he's a core special teamer. He was in the game on that snap because the Pats were playing without their normal starting safeties and had just lost their #4 safety (Richards, who had played every defensive snap until that point in the game) to an injury on the previous play tackling Ivory.

So it was part a great play by Enumwa and partly a great read by Fitzpatrick targeting the Patriots' place of injury weakness.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 4:51pm

Of course, 80 yards of that margin was the opening/closing drive in OT. Still, given the Pats' OL (and safety, and WR) situation, I was surprised the difference in regulation was just 64 yards. I thought the Jets outplayed them on both sides of the ball.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:01pm

Both the writers here, Tanier, and King on MMQB talk about how surprising it was that the Pats defense got so gashed by Marshall and by the Jets interior rushing game. Especially because the Pats have been really good against #1WR's this year and decent against interior runs.

It's not that surprising. The Pats were missing both their starting safeties (McCourty and Chung) in this game. Injuries matter. Especially at safety for those two aspects of the Patriots game. There's a big difference between a McCourty/Chung duo and a Harmon/Richards duo.

The Pats strategy thus far this season has been to button down the #1 WR by covering him with their #2 CB (Ryan) with McCourty rolled to help out, and using Butler (#1 CB) to take away the #2 WR one on one. Didn't see enough of this game to see what they did instead with McCourty out, but obviously it didn't work as well.

And Chung has been an unsung run defender this year. I suspect replacing him with the much less hard-hitting Richards or Wilson would impact the interior run defense.

For added fun, the Patriots lost Richards on the first play of overtime, meaning they were starting their #3 and #5 safeties at safety (and it's worth noting that their #5 and 6 safeties are generally only special teamers). They had also lost their #3 CB earlier in the game. No wonder their pass defense fell apart at the end.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:06pm

Another point no one has mentioned, but has been mentioned in the conventional media and Jets interviews; Belichick essentially challenged the Jets offense to score a touchdown by kicking off to start overtime. That's how Marshall and Fitzpatrick took it, and it turned out to be a bad idea. As someone mentioned earlier in the thread, this isn't the worst thing to happen to the Pats, the Steelers not making the playoffs and needing a win against Miami to get the 1 seed.

by liquidmuse3 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:47pm

#AnybodyButTebow. I guess the playoff win with 300 yards vs. the #1 pass defense, the taking the second worst team to said playoffs, the 24th ranked defense, the 80.1 rating (with said playoffs), the almost 1000 yards rushing, the best 4th Q pass rating, the 90 rating and 60% completion in the preseason...none of that matters. #KeepThePrettyPassersOnWednesdayEmployed

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:53pm

Oh MY GOD - Skip Bayless has discovered FootballOutsiders and invaded the comment section.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 2:57pm

I confess I do not understand what that post is meant to convey.

So you are one up on me.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 3:10pm

Whatever you want to say about Skip Bayless, he is an educated man. Therefore, his internet posts would likely be coherent, and also free of run-on sentences and nonsensical hashtags.

by blarneyforbreakfast :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:03pm

As a Seattle fan, I'm not quite sure what to make of yesterday's game. Seattle actually moved the ball well, but almost every unsuccessful drive was ended by a fumble/bad snap. Wilson's stat line wasn't that bad when you realize that the interception was basically a punt, but he was running for his life the whole game.

What I didn't like on the Seattle side though... has to start with the running game, which gained 21 yards on 16 non-Russell attempts. 1-2 yard rushes destroyed several Seahawk drives. The offensive line was getting blown up so quickly that even the quick passing game was getting messed up. On the defensive side, a relatively good performance, but they didn't get much pressure on Keenum. But the Rams only put together one long touchdown drive. If you took out the turnovers and miscues, this game would probably have been a Seattle blowout, but there is cause for concern until they figure out the RB situation.

by Bjorn Nittmo :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:09pm

OK, I give up -- why would it ever be reasonable to elect to kick in OT, aside from strong wind advantage? Is expected starting field position really that much better if you stop the opposition's first drive? Seems like best reasonable expectation is they go 3-and-out, punt from around the 30, and maybe you take over at your own 30? Give up one first down and got to be close to a wash vs. field position when receiving a kickoff. How can that possible edge compare to the huge advantage of being able to end the game on first possession, not to mention having first crack at sudden death if both teams kick FG on first possession? (And why on earth doesn't the rule allow for the 2nd team to get a chance to score even if the first scores a TD?)

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:11pm

The advantage is that the first drive is the easiest to play defense on because all you have to do is prevent a TD and you get the ball back. All subsequent drives are sudden death.

"(And why on earth doesn't the rule allow for the 2nd team to get a chance to score even if the first scores a TD?)"

Why should it?

by Bjorn Nittmo :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:44pm

To first point: why is that any easier than defending after you've had a possession; if you've kicked a FG then you have the same sudden death position.

2nd: Because deciding a tie game shouldn't depend on one team winning a coin flip and getting the first crack to score, just like we wouldn't think it reasonable in baseball if the game ended if the visiting team scored, say, 2 runs in the top of the 10th.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:55pm

1) That's only if you score first. You are guaranteed not to lose unless you allow a TD on the opening possession of OT, that is not true for any subsequent drive.

2) The thing I find most unreasonable about OT is that a team gets full credit for winning. If you can't stop a TD on the opening drive, I have little sympathy for you.

by Bjorn Nittmo :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:49pm

But regardless of the outcome on your first defensive series -- allow TD, allow FG, allow no points -- how is your defensive performance affected by whether you have the ball first or second? Yes, if you fail to score first and give up a FG you lose, but how is that different if we reverse that sequence (you first give up the FG then fail to score)? Anothter commenter made the valid point that playing D first gives you information for when you get the ball, which is a good point. But I don't see how it would help you on defense.

Why does the team that wins the coin flip get a chance to end the game? Again, the baseball analogy -- I don't think anyone would find it reasonable if we played extra innings that way.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 7:53pm

I don't really care about baseball.

Football used to have sudden death OT and people watched it for decades that way.

There are all kinds of OT rules. In tennis or volleyball you have to win by 2 scores. Should that be the rule in football? Hockey just has a timed period I believe, there is no guarantee that both teams will posses the puck (though it is very likely).

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 8:40pm

In Hockey, it's sudden death for an overtime period, and then a shoot out to determine who gets the win. That's regular season, playoffs are still sudden death until someone scores, I believe.

by apk3000 :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 8:44am

In any case, football is the only sport that has coin tosses. Everybody else has faceoffs/jump balls or one side just gets to bat/serve first. Perhaps the NFL should do away with coin tosses and just go to home team receives first. Adds a little more incentive for HFA in the playoffs too.

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 8:57am

Overtime jump balls. Have each of the teams’ other players line up on there respective 40 yd lines. When the ball is touched they can cross. Would it be fair? Probably not but it would be exciting.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 8:40pm

I'd get rid of regular season OT altogether and just accept ties, but that's probably my soccer mindset. I know some people consider them anathema.

Save overtime for the playoffs, when it's absolutely necessary.

by BJR :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 9:56pm

Accepting ties would have the additional advantage of helping split teams' records, and reducing the need for complicated, contrived tie-breakers.

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 10:08pm

Totally agree. I've long advocated for no regular season overtime for exactly this reason.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 9:52pm

I agree with you.

by Jerry :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 9:04am

While there are some people who loathe tie games, the more important problem is teams playing for the tie as regulation winds down. If the score is even with 5 minutes left, the offense has that much more incentive to try to score knowing that there will be an overtime if they don't. (An underdog who has the ball late in a tie game would usually be happy to run the clock out and take the half-win.)

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 9:45am

I actually think it would lend itself just as much to the opposite: say Jets versus Bills, Week 17, Jets need to win and score a touchdown to put them down by one inside the two-minute warning. Do they kick the extra point and hope to get the ball back to score a field goal, or go for two knowing that's probably their best chance to win?

I really don't think teams playing for a tie would be that much of a problem.

by Led :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 11:30am

I think you are underestimating the conservatism and risk aversion baked into the NFL coaching psyche (not all of which is irrational).

by tuluse :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 11:42am

The question is how would it change coaching from right now? They already play for regular time ties.

by Jerry :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 9:31pm

But that's usually with seconds left on the clock, not minutes.

Right now, if a game is tied with 5 minutes left, both teams continue to play for the win. If there was no overtime, there would be situations where the team with the ball would try to run out the clock and take the tie, and the defense would be willing to let them do that rather than risk the loss. (This was, in fact, the problem that overtime was designed to address.)

FWIW, I have no problem with games that result in ties; I've left plenty of events feeling like neither team deserved to lose (or, sometimes, to win). The problem is with those boring endings where one or both teams goes into a shell.

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 11:55am

I don't think I am. I'm just not bothered by it. Last night's game, for example, would probably have been less exciting at the end, with conservative Kubiak content to take a tie and guarantee the playoff spot, but the rest of the game was still compelling and I'd consider the tie outcome fairer (for as little as fairness means in sports).

by Eddo :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:19pm

"And why on earth doesn't the rule allow for the 2nd team to get a chance to score even if the first scores a TD?"

The league was trying to put and end to the three-first-downs-and-then-a-FG endings that made OT games more boring to the general public.

by MJK :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:25pm

The same reason why a team that trails by 15 late and scores a TD should go for 2, not 1: the value of information.

The team with first possession is forced to play conservative--going for it on 4th down a failing puts the other team in excellent position to kick a game winning FG--and they don't know what they need. A TD wins it, but a FG may or may not be good enough, and a punt is bad, but how bad?

The team that goes second KNOWS what they need, and can therefore play conservatively or aggressively as needed and adjust their playcalling accordingly. That has value. If the first team didn't score, the second team can play for a FG. If the first team scored a FG, the second team knows they need to play in 4-down mode until they get into FG range, and then go for the winning TD only if practical.

When they made the rule change, I expected that EVERY coach who had a basic knowledge of game theory (OK, maybe that's like 2 coaches in the league) to always opt to kick, or at least to take the wind, unless they truly had a terrible defense and ended up in OT by virtue of a 45-45 tie score or something like that.

by theslothook :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:28pm

Short of playing a team with a scary offense or yourself having a poor defense, deferring feels like the smarter play. I bet most coaches who receive are also much more conservative once getting into field goal range.

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 10:59am

I think it's been noted upthread, but this was the Pats' obvious error, stating "We'll kick" rather than deferring or choosing a goal to defend. Thus they gave away both the ball and the wind.

by Jerry :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 7:27pm

There's nothing to defer to in overtime. Given the non-awful weather, if the Pats really wanted to kick, they did the right thing. If they chose a goal, the Jets could have chosen to kick.

by Bjorn Nittmo :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:47pm

Reasonable point here. I just still can't see how the informational advantage of batting in the bottom of the inning, so to speak, outweighs the huge advantages of first-strike-TD opportunity and of possible extra possessions in OT.

by tuluse :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 6:48pm

You may be over-valuing knowledge in this case. It has to be worth more than the odds of giving up a TD, which is probably around 20%.

by blarneyforbreakfast :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 4:54am

This is getting a little too clever.
The only time receiving might help is if the first team (team 1) kicks a field goal. If instead they score a TD, game over. If Team 1 doesn't score, it does not provide any useful information to the second team, but Team 1 will have first chance at winning if neither team scores.

So they only possible advantage is if Team 1 kicks a field goal. Then, Team 2 is in 4-down territory until they get into FG range. However, once Team 2 kicks a FG team 1 again has first crack at winning the game.

It only makes sense to kick if you think the wind/weather will shift the chances dramatically, or if you think you have a big special teams advantage.

by Andrew Potter :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 9:47am

If you kick and the other team goes three-and-out, you're usually getting the ball in much better field position than you would with a touchback, and now all you need is a field goal.

by Jay Z :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 8:47pm

I think Rodgers' play has been affected somewhat. The reason I say that is the several games where the Packers' offense would struggle, then they would fall behind and get in pass only mode, then suddenly they could move the ball. Of course, if the defenses are rolling up coverage so much in normal, then if they back off a little in any sort of prevent maybe the underneath stuff is easier...

The coaches have been adjusting the game plan and playcalling a lot. But inconsistencies with the running backs and line have made that strategy only occasionally effective.

by FlippingADollar :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 9:56pm

4 Out of the chiefs last six were against the colts!

by rageon :: Mon, 12/28/2015 - 10:25pm

Watching Denver has moved into "it's painful" territory. I'm not sure that Kubiak understands that you don't have to run on every first down -- especially on 1st and 25. Brock looks like he's playing not to get hurt any worse (in addition to his usual inability to avoid taking sacks at the worst possible time). After this likely loss, I think they have to play Peyton in the finale if he's at all able to go.

by theslothook :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 2:15am

If I'm denver, I still start PM next week and take my chances. Look, this is nothing against brock, but he has a ceiling to his play because he simply hasn't played enough. PM is hugely variable, but if healthy and able to recapture some part of his old self, his ceiling is much higher and I think the broncos need to take that chance. This defense is good, but not good enough in todays nfl to win every game 20-17 and not all of their games will be aj mccaron making his 2nd start on the road.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 6:13am

RIP Lemmy.

God is dead.
The standard is the standard!

by Hurt Bones :: Tue, 12/29/2015 - 8:11am

I may like rodeo and pool though I’m not a big fan of Motörhead. I am sure of something; neither Motörhead, rodeo or pool is American Football.