Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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A heart condition discovered at the combine has put the Michigan lineman's career in limbo, but Hurst had the best film of any defensive tackle in this year's draft class.

04 Jan 2016

Audibles at the Line: Week 17

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 emails 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.

New York Jets 17 at Buffalo Bills 22

Cian Fahey: Ryan Fitzpatrick's ball placement has been all over the place so far. The Jets are down 13-0, and if he doesn't correct his accuracy quickly, this game is already over.

Sammy Watkins is such an exceptional talent. He's still not close to where he could/should be in terms of production but that has rarely been about his play and more about the service he was receiving.

Sterling Xie: Does anyone know why Chris Ivory only has two carries in comparison to seven for Stevan Ridley right now? Ivory's two carries have gone for 65 yards, and there's no Bilal Powell today. The Jets have been down double digits most of the game, but now that they're back within one possession after a Mike Gillislee fumble led to a field goal, you'd hope they would feed Ivory a bit.

Cian Fahey: Ivory was hurt on the long run.

One of the things that annoys me most about defensive coordinators/defensive head coaches in the NFL is guys who are married to the blitz in third-and-long situations. The Jets were struggling to move the ball against coverage, then on third-and-10, the Bills concede space and put their overmatched defensive backs in one-on-one matchups so Eric Decker can get the touchdown.

Rob Weintraub: Really, really, really don't want to play Pittsburgh again. Give me something here Jets. But Fitz threw a bad end zone interception moments ago, and Tyrod Taylor has made a couple of nice throws on third down to advance Buffalo into New York territory with seven minutes left.

And PicksPatrick throws up a wobbler as he is creamed by Marcell Dareus and is intercepted. Great play by Dareus, can't get too down on Fitz for that one. So of course the Steelers ooze backwards into the playoffs and most likely yet another bloodbath in Cincy.


I should hesitate a little as Fitz may get one more shot.

Indeed the Jets get it back with 44 seconds left, no timeouts left, and are inside their own 20. Now the FitzMagic erupts!

Vince Verhei: You're also assuming the Broncos will beat San Diego today. I don't think Chargers-over-Broncos would be any bigger an upset than Dolphins-over-Pats, so you never know

Rob Weintraub: True, but being a Bengals fan means forever assuming the worst. And as I say that Fitzpatrick throws his third interception of the fourth quarter, wrapping it up for the Bills and the Steelers.

Vince Verhei: Ryan Fitzpatrick got the ball three times in the fourth quarter today needing one score for the first playoff berth of his career ... and threw interceptions on all three drives. That's just sad.

Scott Kacsmar: Well, I've often had the stat how Fitzpatrick is so interception prone in 4QC situations, and this is a game that will be remembered perhaps best in his career since the Jets were so close to the playoffs.

New England Patriots 10 at Miami Dolphins 20

Aaron Schatz: Every time I watch Lamar Miller speed through a huge hole, like he did on a 29-yard run against the Patriots in the first quarter, I wonder what the hell was going on with the Miami offensive play calling this year.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have apparently decided to ride Steven Jackson all day today. Amazing that this will be the only time in his entire NFL career that he plays on a team that finishes the season with a winning record. He's really hard to bring down today -- not fast, but hard to bring down.

Cian Fahey: The completely inept coaching staff and roster building in Miami has been so prolonged that we're still waiting to see Ryan Tannehill in a functional offense.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots' game plan today is odd, like they're trying to sit Tom Brady without actually sitting Brady. It's nothing but runs, over and over. Brady threw five official passes in the first half, which is the lowest he's ever thrown in the first half of a game. (There were also a couple cancelled by penalty, of course, like a deep pass to Scott Chandler where Reshad Jones committed some of the most blatant pass interference I've ever seen, so blatant he got flagged even though the pass was really uncatchable.) I guess part of this idea is that the Dolphins are a terrible run defense, but frankly they're a terrible pass defense too (30th in pass defense DVOA, 22nd against the run).

It looked like the game was going into halftime at 3-3 but the Dolphins completed a sweet deep pass to Greg Jennings, who beat Leonard Johnson -- a guy the Pats had picked up off waivers a couple weeks ago -- for 54 yards down the left sideline. Then DeVante Parker got open for a 15-yard touchdown.

Sterling Xie: Greg Jennings just had a play that looked like a cousin of the Dez Bryant play. Catch plus two feet but the ball comes loose as he reaches out while falling to the ground. So of course this one is called complete. Not even gonna try to explain.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots totally changed their offensive strategy in the second half. All of a sudden it was bombs away. Surprisingly good defense by the Miami secondary, helped by the fact that Brady just doesn't have the arm strength to get those passes downfield without hanging them a bit most of the time.

Rob Weintraub: For some reason there's always a game in Miami it seems that the Pats turn into the Keystone Kops. And that is today -- even granting all the various mitigating circumstances, they have been brutal. Even Ryan Tannehill is converting a key third-and-13 with his legs in this game.

This of course kind of stinks for us Bengals fans. Should we actually finally win a playoff game as the three seed, now the reward is not a winnable game in Denver but the healthy and mad Patriots. Just can't win for losing around this league.

Aaron Schatz: The Patriots lost a close one to Denver. Their loss to the Eagles could be blamed heavily on special-teams miscues. In their loss to the Jets, at least the defense looked good until overtime. But today was the worst game they've played all year. Even with all the injuries the Patriots are dealing with, it doesn't seem to make sense to lose to a lousy Miami Dolphins team with the No. 1 seed on the line. The pass protection was horrendous, and it is compounded by the fact that Brady doesn't have guys who can get open quickly when he's dealing with a gimpy Danny Amendola and no Julian Edelman. The pass rush was not as strong as usual without Chandler Jones in the lineup. The tackling and coverage had some problems, although with just 20 points allowed, it's kind of hard to blame this loss on the defense. Even Stephen Gostkowski missed a field goal.

I don't quite understand the strategy to avoid the pass for the first half -- with a number of give-up runs on third-and-long -- and then suddenly be bombs-away in the second half. It makes me wonder: how much did this really matter to the Patriots? They sat some guys, like Jones and Dont'a Hightower, who probably could have played. When they went down 20-10, they pulled Brady for Jimmy Garoppolo with 2:00 left even though a comeback was still theoretically possible (though it would have required an onside kick recovery).

The Pats limp into the playoffs, but honestly, who in the AFC doesn't seem to be limping into the playoffs? We don't know all of today's results as I write this, but we know that Pittsburgh lost to Baltimore last week and looked awful, Kansas City almost lost to Cleveland, Denver is 1-2 in its last three games before today, Cincinnati doesn't look the same without Andy Dalton, and does Houston really scare anyone coming out of the AFC South? At least New England and Denver get a week to get healthier.

Philadelphia Eagles 35 at New York Giants 30

Cian Fahey: DeMarco Murray runs in a long touchdown at the start of the Giants-Eagles game. Importantly, he took the ball from his quarterback who lined up under center and ran between the tackles with momentum. If Chip was still there, he'd have been running sideways out of the shotgun.

Vince Verhei: I don't know how often receivers catch passes inside their own end zone, but the Eagles just did it on back-to-back plays (though one was wiped out by penalty).

So I answered my own question -- there have been five receptions (and one incompletion) by receivers inside their own end zone this year. Nobody has done it more than once. All came on second or third down with 10 or more yards to go.

Cian Fahey: From Eagles beat writer Les Bowen:

DeMarco Murray has 49 rushing yards in the first half. His touchdown run was 54 yards.

Tennessee Titans 24 at Indianapolis Colts 30

Vince Verhei: If 2015 is the year of quarterback hell, then this game is its ninth circle. Not only is Tennessee playing Zach Mettenberger, but the Colts are rotating Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley. That terrible twosome has thrown for touchdowns of 57 and 18 yards ... and have gained 91 total yards on their other 14 completions. But that's good enough for a 20-14 halftime lead, mainly because Mettenberger has only gained 38 yards on 11 passes.

Tom Gower: For a game featuring Zach Mettenberger starting at one team and Josh Freeman and Ryan Lindley playing for the other team, that was a much more competitive, entertaining first half than I anticipated. Indianapolis leads 20-14, and none of their four scores have come off turnover-related short fields. Freeman has used his mobility at times and while he's missed a few throws he's also hit a few, including Coby Fleener on a 57-yard pass thrown about 27 yards downfield. Lindley came in for him in the two-minute drill and led the Colts to a score for the lead, with Andre Johnson finishing it off with a reach into the end zone. Aside from missing an open Phillip Dorsett (he's still Ryan Lindley, you know), it was a very good drive by him. Low moment for the Titans that drive, aside from B.W. Webb's inability to adjust and challenge for the ball Johnson caught, was T.Y. Hilton catching a pass on the right hashmark and going out of bounds on the left sideline to save a time out with I believe :21 to play. Really amazing, inspiring stuff.

Delanie Walker has unsurprisingly been the focal point of the Titans' attack. On their extended touchdown drive, he had 61 yards rushing and receiving, plus drew the 15-yard face mask penalty that extended the drive on a third down stop. David Cobb finished it off on fourth-and-1. The other score came after a Freeman screen pass went off Boom Herron's hands and deflected to Da'Norris Searcy, who fell down at the Colts 5. Spread empty, and Mettenberger had an easy lane for the quarterback draw. Really something I wasn't sure I'd ever see in the NFL.

Vince Verhei: Jerrell Freeman intercepts Mettenberger and returns it for a touchdown. I know Mettenberger is a backup and he's only playing because Marcus Mariota is hurt, but he is very clearly the third-best quarterback in this game, and the other two guys were unemployed this time last week.

And now the Titans have put someone named Alex Tanney in at quarterback, so Mettenberger might be the fourth-best passer in this game when all is said and done. Delanie Walker has six catches for Tennessee. The rest of the team has zero.

Wait, I know Alex Tanney -- he's the trick shot video dude from the Monmouth College Fighting Scots!

Andrew Potter: "Trick Shot" Alex Tanney is the guy who'll always be more famous for his exploits on YouTube than his exploits on a NFL field.

Tom Gower: I guess it got edited out, but my Tanney player comment for FOA2015 was along the lines of "thank goodness for the trick shot video, giving every football writer who hasn't seen him play in a meaningful game something to actually write about for him."

Aaron Schatz: Alex Tanney: the guy so meaningless he was cut from Going Deep for space. And yet he's playing today. That's the 2015 season in a nutshell.

Vince Verhei: Tanney finds a leaping Dorial Green-Beckham in the corner of the end zone, and DGB gets both feet down for the catch and the score. Colts now lead 27-24 and Tanney is 7-of-7 for 70 yards. So yes, Zach Mettenberger was the fourth-best quarterback in this game.

Tom Gower: It would have been fascinating to see what Mike Mularkey would do if Tanney managed to lead the Titans for touchdown to make it 30-30. Do you kick the extra point? Go for two? Take a knee? The hard thing about tanking is players will always try, because it makes sense for them to try (how hard they try, that's something you can examine). But that's as clear-cut a potential strategic decision, one where you can take the players out of it, as you can get, with clear rewards for failing. Too bad it didn't happen.

Baltimore Ravens 16 at Cincinnati Bengals 24

Rob Weintraub: Raggedy first half for the Bengals, but they have played better in the second half. A diving Vontaze Burfict interception set up a touchdown pass to A.J. Green on a spectacular grab and toe-tap, and then the return of Jeremy Hill at long last busting one 38 yards on fourth-and-1 with a great lead block from today's H-back, guard Jake Fisher. 21-9 Cincy.

Burfict has been sensational today. 11 tackles, the pick, great pass coverage all over the place. He hasn't been 100 percent yet while working back from the micro fracture surgery -- today looks like the old Tez.

Pittsburgh Steelers 28 at Cleveland Browns 12

Scott Kacsmar: Steelers have had a pretty sloppy performance with penalties, a missed field goal, a dropped interception by Mike Mitchell and a fumble lost by Antonio Brown, who otherwise has been open all day long. He might just get to 144 catches to break Marvin Harrison's single-season record at this point. The running game is certainly not there with DeAngelo Williams carted off with a leg injury that felt like Le'veon Bell in Week 17 last year all over again. If the Steelers make the playoffs, it does not look likely they'll have a solid back available again. Helping the cause today is Austin Davis taking bad sacks and missing open receivers.

Vince Verhei: Williams has five carries for 8 yards right now. He came into the weekend the only guy with a realistic shot to pass Thomas Rawls for the rushing DYAR crown. Guess that's out the window now.

Scott Kacsmar: Williams was back on the sideline, so that's a better sign than going to the hospital or staying in the locker room. Still not sure he'll return today though. Why bother? Brown is open all the time and he only needs 11 catches now to break Marvin Harrison's record. I think we'll see them go for it, though hopefully that doesn't result in too many predictable screens. We also have a Terrelle Pryor sighting at wide receiver. He just beat Antwon Blake (of course) for a big catch down the field. Pittsburgh called timeouts when it didn't need to on the previous touchdown drive, helping to create this Cleveland scoring opportunity.

Vince Verhei: "Brown is open all the time and he only needs 11 catches now to break Marvin Harrison's record."

The fact that this was written with only one half to play, and that it still totally seems like a realistic goal, says a lot about Brown.

Rob Weintraub: Tough season for Browns rookie Cameron Erving. Lawrence Timmons dusts him with a spin move for the strip-sack. Pittsburgh recovers and is in the end zone on the next play. Looks like they will survive this one.

Scott Kacsmar: It's too bad Johnny Manziel was injured this week. He would have made this game a lot more interesting. Austin Davis just makes too many mistakes, and his lost fumble led to a Markus Wheaton touchdown that should be the dagger today. Mike Tomlin had another questionable two-point conversion call in a 23-12 game. Only leading by 11 means Cleveland doesn't necessarily have to score two touchdowns. There isn't much difference between 12 and 13, so I would just kick the extra point. The Steelers made the two-point conversion look easy, but that's besides the point.

And now the Browns have fumbled the kickoff, so this is all about waiting to see if the Jets blow it or if the Steelers end as the season's best team to miss the playoffs.

San Diego Chargers 20 at Denver Broncos 27

Scott Kacsmar: If you listened to Jim Nantz these last two games, you would think Philip Rivers is leading San Diego into battles of a war they have no business being in, and they all deserve a medal of honor for this act of bravery. I mean, come on. It's the NFL and it's their job to play out the season no matter how bad the record is.

Denver's inconsistent offense would definitely keep this out of shocking upset territory. Everyone but Green Bay "almost beats" Denver this year. However, losing this game at home with the No. 1 seed on the line would be pretty shocking. At least you can say New England lost in Miami for the third year in a row. A banged-up secondary is definitely a bad thing to have when Demaryius Thomas is running wild after the catch, which we haven't seen nearly as much this season.

Sterling Xie: Such a strange first half. Broncos have out gained the Chargers by nearly 200 yards but only lead 7-6 because of four turnovers. Even with that huge advantage, it doesn't feel as though the Chargers are any threat to actually win this game, at least at this stage late in the second quarter.

Scott Kacsmar: Am I alone in thinking John Fox is a better coach than Gary Kubiak? We're talking a marginal difference, but I would rather have Fox. For all the conservative flak Fox got, Kubiak just went to the locker room with the Broncos past their own 40 and a timeout left in a 7-6 game. Uhh, this is in Denver. A good completion there and you could be in field goal range. If this team had kept Fox and Adam Gase and replaced Jack Del Rio with Wade Phillips, I think they'd be at least in the same spot today, if not playing better complementary football.

Vince Verhei: Earlier this year I made an off-the-cuff comment calling Fox a horrible coach for punting a couple of times in a blowout loss to Seattle. People took it way too seriously for a throwaway line at the end of a game -- yes, he is too conservative, but no, he is not horrible. Just wanted to mention that since you brought it up.

As for Kubiak, isn't the buzz on him pretty much what it is for Wade Phillips types -- great coordinator, bad head guy?

Tom Gower: C.J. Anderson fumbles, Rivers finds Antonio Gates for a 13-7 lead, and who's that? Peyton Manning enters the game on the Broncos' next possession.

Vince Verhei: OK, 1) That's insane. Brock Osweiler is averaging 10 yards a pass and you bench him for a dead man because his running back fumbled? This proves Fox is a better coach than Kubiak. And 2) to answer Aaron's earlier question, no there are no good teams in the AFC.

Aaron Schatz: Well, Manning promptly led the Broncos up the field for an easy touchdown... almost entirely on running plays. So do we give him credit for knowing to audible to runs against a light box, or for the presence of the light box in the first place? Or is it just random variation that on this drive, the Broncos offensive line was actually blocking well?

Andrew Potter: The Chargers also spent their week studying and practising for a substantially different offense and quarterback to what Denver just used on that drive. Bad defenses have enough of a challenge preparing for one offensive system, never mind two. Oh, and San Diego's walking wounded roster is now even more wounded. Plus surely at some point Broncos players have to stop fumbling? It's not like Denver wasn't moving the ball with Osweiler in the game.

Vince Verhei: ... so why bench him?

Aaron Schatz: The difference in both run blocking and pass blocking since Manning came in has been tremendous. Has Manning been the cause of that? Certainly not the Manning we saw the first half of this year, but I don't know how much Manning is adjusting things and/or calling audibles.

Meanwhile, Aqib Talib completely gives up his responsibility in quarters coverage and lets rookie Tyrell Williams get completely open for an 80-yard touchdown to put the Chargers up 20-17.

Broncos end up winning the game when Philip Rivers totally overthrows his receiver in the middle of the field, I think Tyrell Williams, and it falls into the hands of Shiloh Keo. Keo returns it to the San Diego 23 and then the Broncos score in one play, a handoff to Ronnie Hillman that he takes around right end for a 23-yard touchdown. I know the conventional coverage of this game is going to be about Manning, but I think the story is whether or not Manning is responsible for the dramatically improved run blocking after halftime. Because THAT's how the Broncos got their offense going.

Seattle Seahawks 36 at Arizona Cardinals 6

Aaron Schatz: Oh my god what an ass-kicking. This is brutal. I did not see this coming. Seattle looks on point in pretty much every phase of the game. Guys keep getting open in the Arizona secondary, partly due to good play design that is leaving guys uncovered -- like Will Tukuafu coming out of the backfield on his touchdown catch. Seattle's offensive line has improved over the course of the season from abysmal to reasonable -- Russell Wilson is still under pressure a lot, but that's partly just how he tends to play, running himself into pressure sometimes. Seattle's secondary is right there on nearly every pass, Jeremy Lane has been excellent today, plus the Cardinals have had a couple of drops. Seattle run defense has been stalwart, with David Johnson at nine carries for 18 yards at halftime. Tyler Lockett has a couple of huge punt returns.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks lead 30-6 at halftime and it doesn't feel that close. Granted, on their interception of Carson Palmer, Earl Thomas got away with a pretty flagrant pass interference or contact flag. But even with that play aside, they've held the DYAR leader and co-leader in the MVP race to 12-of-25 passing for 129 yards. A lot of that has been self-inflicted by Arizona, with receivers dropping passes or running the wrong routes. But they've also given up just 18 yards to David Johnson on nine carries. Arizona came into the game with more touchdowns than punts. They have one touchdown and four punts in the first half -- and most of those punts have just led to big returns by Tyler Lockett.

On offense, Seattle has a 45-yard run by Christine Michael when an Arizona blitz backfired, but otherwise hasn't done a ton on the ground. Instead it has been peak Russell Wilson -- down his top two running backs, top two tight ends, and two starting linemen, Wilson is 13-of-20 for 155 yards with three touchdowns, including scoring grabs by such notorious weapons as Will Tukuafu and Chase Coffman. He has already set team record for passing yards and touchdowns, and needs 20-some yards to top 4,000 for the first time in team history. Given the scores here and in Carolina, I'd be stunned if Carson Palmer saw the field in the second half, and I doubt Wilson will be playing by the fourth quarter.

Man, if the Rams ever make the playoffs, the Seahawks are screwed.

Wilson tops 4,000 yards and Seattle gets a field goal on the first drive of the second half. He's also got 15 yards rushing, which means even if he does end up taking some kneeldowns, he'll be the first player to run for 5 yards and throw a touchdown pass in all 16 games in a season.

And, as expected, Drew Stanton opens the second half for Arizona. And as expected, he is promptly intercepted by Earl Thomas -- which shows why benching Palmer was a smart idea, they're a non-factor without him.

Seahawks up 36-6 at end of the third, Palmer's out, Tarvaris Jackson is warming up, and it comes down to this: if they shut the Cardinals out this quarter, they lead league in scoring defense for the fourth year in a row. (Man, Arizona's long field goal that hit the upright and bounced out at the end of the half looks huge now!)

Cardinals have a fourth-and-10 in the red zone. A field goal means Cincinnati's wins the scoring crown, but Arizona goes for the touchdown. Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, both pulled from the game, seem to know what's at stake and are going nuts on the sideline -- Thomas had to be pulled back into the legal standing area. And then DeShawn Shead gets the interception and big return! Less than six minutes to go! I am way too excited about this statistical footnote!

And it's done. Tarvaris Jackson and Christine Michael keep the ball for the rest of the game, and Seattle finishes with a league-low 277 points allowed and almost certainly lead the NFL in DVOA again.

Scott Kacsmar: It was a shocking result given we weren't sure how much each team would play the main starters. Both went pretty long and Seattle just destroyed them, which certainly shocked Vegas. You would expect a pretty even game if both teams were legitimately trying to win, but it wasn't. If Pete Carroll can't bring a real dynasty to Seattle, he has the DVOA dynasty on lockdown at four years and running. That might sound like a dig, but it's not. Seattle, circa 2012-present, is one of the most impressive teams in NFL history and will be a tough out for anyone. I'm not sure you can say this is the favorite going into the NFC playoffs, but I have no doubt this team can win in any of these stadiums.

Minnesota Vikings 20 at Green Bay Packers 13

Tom Gower: It's the third quarter of Week 17, and clunky, uneven, unproductive Packers offense still looks goofy as heck. I mean, I get it. I didn't like the offense nearly as much as I expected to watching them for FOA2015, because they relied too much on isolation routes and everything ran through the two-man game of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. But at the same time, it doesn't seem that hard to try some slightly different things. They still have the pieces to do something. But nope, so we're all writing the same pieces we could have written when Mike McCarthy took back the play calling, or three weeks before that, or three weeks before that, or after they lost to Denver. Really, any time after the first three weeks of the season, since that's about the only time we've seen the Packers offense I think we all expected to see. Well, I was planning to get a haircut this week anyway, no issue with tearing it out yet again tonight.

Scott Kacsmar: If you ranked all 256 regular-season games by how motivated the two teams were to win the game, this one might rank 256th. I'm not sold either team is giving its all to win this one, and it might be hard to blame them. If you're the Vikings, you probably wouldn't mind coming back here next week with the way Green Bay has been playing. Hosting a dangerous Seattle team is not much of a reward. If you're Green Bay, maybe you lost your confidence weeks ago, but having to beat this same Minnesota team for the third time this year just so you can get back to Arizona may not be as enticing as trying something new like a trip to Washington.

Or maybe I'm just speaking as a fan that's a bit tired of watching these two teams in prime time.

Rob Weintraub: Not sure John Kuhn agrees as he goes airborne, hurdling defenders to get a first down as the Pack mount a furious rally.

Aaron Schatz: The Packers drive after Cordarrelle Patterson's fumbled kick return really made me feel like we just don't know anything about anything. Although I know it's just random variation. One or two good drives doesn't cancel out the poor overall play by the Packers offense over the last two months. But golly... the suddenness of the offensive success is a bit stunning.

Well, I wrote that comment when it looked like the Packers would go downfield and score easily to tie the game. Instead they got stuck on fourth-and-goal from the 12 and Aaron Rodgers threw a pick. Oops.

Scott Kacsmar: Any love for the field goal there with three clock stoppages? Fourth-and-goal from the 12 isn't easy for any offense. I think I would kick there. I know I would kick instead of burning a timeout and throwing an interception in the end zone.

Then Peterson nearly coughed it right back up to the Packers. Hell, maybe they are still both trying to lose this game on purpose.

Rob Weintraub: I feel like every Packers game at Lambeau Field these days is a pitched battle between the ghosts of Ray Nitschke and Lynn Dickey. Looks like Dickey might win this one.

The Hail Mary was batted away, but Aaron Rodgers made a canny play many quarterbacks fail to, playing out that final snap instead of desperately trying to clock it and failing as the seconds ebb away.

So Zim, Jay Gruden, and their former boss, Marvin Lewis, all host playoff games next weekend.

Aaron Schatz: Yes, not clocking it on fourth down and ending the game was a canny play, but the play before was NOT. Throwing an underneath pass to Richard Rodgers on a third down with 10 seconds left -- NOWHERE NEAR THE SIDELINE -- has got to be one of the dumbest plays I've seen in quite some time. And from Aaron Rodgers? Have aliens taken over his brain?

Tom Gower: That was mostly a great play by Xavier Rhodes. He was the only defender in the area, and the Packers had three receivers. Rhodes did a great job of fighting through the block and bringing down the tight end. Predictable, I saw Rhodes waiting for that before the snap, but still an outstanding individual effort by him.

Andrew Potter: It wasn't smart, but it wasn't even nearly the dumbest quarterback play of that game. Teddy Bridgewater is not a leftie, and should not be throwing balls left-handed into coverage while falling down.

Congratulations to the Vikings on winning the division, but if this week's any indication, hosting Seattle's a bit of a booby prize. I don't see much reason to fancy either of these teams next weekend.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 04 Jan 2016

177 comments, Last at 05 Jan 2016, 11:46pm by Perfundle


by Led :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:22pm

It's sad that the Bills looked like the better coached, more disciplined team. Rushing inside and letting Taylor escape the pocket on the 1st quarter TD, the penalties in the punt return game (on a day when field position was at a premium), jumping offsides on the 4th and 3, the burnt timeouts on both sides of the ball because of communication breakdowns, the failure to adjust the defense to give Revis help against Watkins -- all speak to poor preparation and coaching. Yeah, they still could have won the game if Fitz was more accurate or did not throw the terrible INT in the end zone, but Fitz is what he is at this point. I like Bowles and think he's done a professional job overall, but this was a bad time for them to become dysfunctional.

By the way, Karlos Williams deserves 200 carries next year if he can stay healthy (maybe a big if). He's a handful.

by Travis :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:38pm

Don't forget the other inexplicable issues, like not calling timeout near the end of the first half before the Bills kicked their field goal, leaving the Jets (with the wind) with time enough only to kneel; taking the wind in the third quarter, making a 4th quarter comeback difficult, then NOT hurrying with the ball down 19-10 with 5 minutes left in the quarter; running on 2nd and 12 with 2:26 to go down 5, then letting the clock go down to the two-minute warning; and starting Ridley over Ivory (Bowles claimed this was part of the game plan).

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:51pm

Yes, Rex out coached Bowles in this one, but it I think it's sadder that Rex's Bills went 8-8 against the same schedule the Jets had with an actually good quarterback. He definitely regressed in terms of decision making from the past couple of years, from what I saw; his coaching in the first game almost gave the game back to the Jets. If Bowles is to succeed, he and his staff need to learn from their mistakes, and perhaps draft an edge rusher who can keep guys like Taylor inside (that issue is with the personnel, not coaching). Oh, the coaches need to tell Fitz that Ivory was open on that end zone interception. I mean open by twenty yards. If he was hurt, ignoring him makes sense, but then he needs to not be in the game.

By the way, that's Fitz's worst game the entire year.

by Led :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:06pm

"perhaps draft an edge rusher who can keep guys like Taylor inside (that issue is with the personnel, not coaching)"

I'm not talking about Taylor getting the corner on Calvin Pace because Pace doesn't have the wheels anymore. That's personnel, and it happened at least once yesterday. However, on the first quarter TD, Sheldon Richardson inexplicably took an inside rush, setting Taylor free. Since they were playing man, Taylor needed just one downfield block to get to the end zone. Either that was the play call (hard to be believe) or Richardson was not sufficiently drilled in his responsibility to keep Taylor in the pocket.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:22pm

Rex's teams seem to have motivation issues - they're well coached, motivated and good when there's some sort of 'angle' to the game, but don't seem to be that when there's not. How motivated/well coached they are doesn't seem to have anything to do with how important the game actually is.

If there was a football game against invading aliens and the earth hung in the balance, Rex might be the guy I'd want coaching (or giving a halftime speech) - but for a run of the mill game that may decide whether you make the playoffs? not a chance.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:58pm

I'm worried about Williams' health with more carries, but there's no question he can be a serious problem to take down. I figured the Bills were toast when he went down, since this whole offense works on the threat of the ground game, but nice to see that Fitz is still Fitz.

I do actually feel sorry at a certain level for both Fitz and Gailey. Not too much, though.

by rageon :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:23pm

You know that Simpsons scene where Ross Perot puts his hand through his hat in anger when he realises America would rather elect one of two aliens than vote for a third party candidate? That's Tim Tebow watching the Colts/Titans, right?

The only redeeming thing about Fox for Kubiak is that it got them Philips. Beyond that, it's a downgrade. Wishing we could have promoted Gase and still hired Wade.

Denver benched their horrible RT when Manning came in. Not sure if it was for scheme reasons or just not wanting Manning to get killed, but that made a big difference as well.

by billprudden :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:31pm

RG3 and Kap too...

by BroncFan07 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:23pm

"Denver benched their horrible RT when Manning came in."

And they benched him for Tyler Polumbus, once rated by FO as one of the worst players in the entire NFL.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:43pm

As a Bucs fan whose Freemancrush got so abused I'm still in counseling for PTSD, I'm not sure I've ever rooted for another team's QB like I did for Freeman yesterday. No, he wasn't great and it was against an unmotivated (and simply bad) Titans team, but he looked at least vaguely competent. The Fleener TD was pretty, and his first pass of the game was a deep ball that was pretty accurate. Hoping that means he gets a shot in camp somewhere next year and actually recovers from apparently getting his brain ground into the dirt by Schiano.

by Football Michae... :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 4:10pm

Agreed, after the Schiano disaster and the Vikings debacle I'm really glad he actually got to show competence on the football field.

by turbohappy :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 4:24pm

He made some bad throws but looked really in control of the offense for only having days to prepare. Much much better than Whitehurst did and he had weeks.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:18pm

Agree about a Gase/Wade pairing. I wonder if Son of Bum was only attainable by Kubes. Probably not, as I recall him tweeting that he wanted to be working last year.

Which makes about 2 dozen teams idiots for not hiring him...

Kubiak is a moron. He always has been, and he will continue to be. Will, you called me out for good reason on insulting Fox, but I'll stand by this one about Kubiak. He is certainly a huge downgrade compared to Fox and Gase.

At the time Peyton started warming I thought it was possibly because they knew he could manage Schofield's sucking better. Then they pulled him as well. I guess he really did just want a psychological "spark," which made me happy and worked... but is still pretty shoddy reasoning.

To me, with the exception of a few pistols, that still looked an awful lot like a full on Kubiak offense than the old confused hybrid. And Manning looked comfortable with it. If that's the case, then there's plenty of reasons for optimism for the playoffs. Especially if they get to face the Steelers first.

Then again, Chargers D...

by tunesmith :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:24pm

I think the move to Manning was a coaching move (and a very good coaching move) aimed at the other players on offense who were underperforming. They executed better after the switch. The team needed a reset button - it looked like they were reacting with visible frustration after the fifth turnover.

Osweiler was playing well, although his lack of pre-snap recognition led to the sack-fumble. Anyway, I think Kubiak has been an excellent coach this year, and has handled the quarterback non-drama extremely well.

by TimK :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:35pm

I agree that Kubiak seems to have handled the potential QB drama and team chemistry problems it might have caused pretty well. I do wonder though if a lot of great coordinators who make for less than sparkling head coaches suffer from trying to continue coordinating when they should really be doing the next level up stuff as HC. I'd like to see Kubiak do the higher level management and let a decent OC do the offence more next year.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:32pm

As I have stated elsewhere, I am now of the firm belief that the head coach and quarterback are at odds. On what specifically I do not know. But that is the only thing that can explain the truly bizarre nature of the Packers offensive playcalling/qb performance (even accounting for the receivers/line issues)

If not at odds there is a clear lack of alignment. With each passing game you see more and more mutual grimaces, mutual grim looks, glazed eyes (by Rodgers) in coach huddles and complete lack of agreement in post game discussions.

Once the season concludes, likely sooner than later, the GM needs to get these guys in a room and nobody leaves until whatever tension exists is resolved.

The current state is unacceptable.

And Rodgers career clock is ticking. GB is a long ways from the giddy days of January 2011. If Ted does not hold this intervention future seasons are clearly at risk because this partnership right now is broken.

That is my 5 cents of psychoanalysis for the day. Please put your nickel in the can as you leave.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:21pm

I have always had issues with McCarthy's decision making. I thought he single handedly cost them the title game. And at 20-10 after the completion into FG range I thought "I bet MM goes conservative and takes the 3 here rather than trying to get 7" and started to wonder how much of the whole issue with Rodgers not having 9+ point 4QCs could be blamed on McCarthy.

They did go for the FG, as it happens, but on both that and the next drive, I'd say Rodgers was actually more to blame. Can't take those sacks.

People really just aren't getting open for him though. It's pretty bad. And he's still refusing to take chances into coverage. Which is still a net positive, but damn, in some spots you need to loosen that up a bit...

I agree, though. It seems very obvious that A A Ron is a very unhappy guy this year.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:01pm

People really just aren't getting open for him though. It's pretty bad. And he's still refusing to take chances into coverage. Which is still a net positive, but damn, in some spots you need to loosen that up a bit...

Watching Rodgers reminded me so much of Wilson on his bad days, and what you described is exactly what Wilson used to do. Even when Rodgers completed passes, it was revealing that apart from sideline throws to Jones, most of them were to wide-open receivers. Considering how long Rodgers was holding on to the football, it meant that he had to see the receivers come open before he threw them, which is no way to play QB.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:31pm

But Rodgers can and has been very good at throwing guys open. Also I've never known Rodgers, even the younger version, to leave completions on the field the way Wilson used to until he turned into Superman.

I think he has some trust issues with the guys on the roster now. That seems to be the only way to explain it.

by dank067 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:50pm

Rodgers definitely had a reputation early in his career for holding on to the ball too long. He's always taken far more sacks than your Mannings, Bradys and Breeses. But you're right that he has still always been able to make some really nice throws in tight coverage.

Rodgers has spent a ton of time over the years developing the ability to make throws on the run, throws without his feet set, etc. I wonder if that hasn't led to a decline in his traditional mechanics and timing. Because while he seems to be hesitant to throw in some situations, and the timing problems are in part on the receivers, in some cases he's flat out missing throws to receivers who are open.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:51pm

Lacking trust with his receivers and his OL is what Wilson went through as well. One thing that Rodgers has over Wilson is amazing pocket movement; he knows how to move in the pocket to help out his linemen. On the other hand, Wilson has surer-handed receivers, and they presumably run better routes too.

What turned things around for Wilson, beyond better protection, was quicker-developing routes. He's actually still not doing that well on 7-step drops or slow-developing play-action passes, but they've had success with legal pick plays and crossing routes, and I didn't see much of that with Green Bay. Also, the Packers' checkdown options seem to be poorly designed. One play involved a checkdown to a receiver 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage, whom Minnesota immediately tackled.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 8:00pm

Its everything. I've often wondered why qbs rarely replicate haymaker years. 2011 Rodgers was surreal. 2004 Manning was surreal. Even though the next year was good, it wasn't like the year before despite pretty similar supporting casts.

Rodgers described once how 2011 just...everyone worked out so harmoniously. Everyone correctly anticipated the defense they would be seeing, the placement on the field, the route, and throw and velocity just synced. The next year, its not as funely tuned.

I think the same is true when things are going bad. A qb's timing gets thrown off, the trust isn't there, and everythings gets a bead slow. Greg Cosell noted that Rodgers is not seeing the field well anymore. He's not pulling the trigger on first reads that should be routine. He didn't say he's always doing that, but that Rodgers is doing it at all is a surprise given the quality of qb he is.

I chalk it up to just a bad season that will sort itself out next year.

by Willsy :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 8:11pm

As a Vikes fan I cannot agree more. Rodgers has always had a laid back air about him but the body lanquage, the facial expressions and the look in the eyes during the game was extremely rvealing.
The best comparison is Bridgewater. Despite still learning and having issues it is abundantly clear that he was totally motivated for that game, Rodgers looked like he was playing backyard football and was diagreeing with his wife about play calls.
All coaches have issues but McCarthy seems to have an odd tinge to him that I can't quite pinpoint. When palying GB I always feel that the talent beats you, Rodgers, Matthews, Cobb, as oppossed to the scheme. Comparing the game to the Vikes/Denver game this year Wade has a great gameplan defensively that gave the Vikes real problems but it was a team based approach. Not to say that GB isn't a cohesive team but I always feel like they are much more a team of champions rather than a champion team.
The fact GB has had injuries is clearly an issue but all teams do and other regimes seem to be able to have much more of a plug and play feel to them. A few of the GB games this year the team was simply awful and that raises big question marks.
Even last night I thought the score flattered the hosts and I felt like the Vikes were going to win all game, and I don't ever feel like that against GB. Something is clearly amiss and I totally agree the GM has to work something out or work someone out as it is that important.

by TimK :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:32pm

According to Mike Tanier Broncos swapped out Schofield for Polumbus at RT about the same time they exchanged QBs. It is surely a signed of just how overmatched Schofield has been if Polumbus is a huge improvement, but it might have been the case. Be interested if Ben Muth has anything to say on this (and if Schofield has any redeeming features that could be built upon, he is a second year player are there any signs that give reasons for why he should play for a third season anywhere? It is always interesting to me why a player who is being beaten up on regularly stays on the field, as I'm all to aware I will miss technical things in my watching, but he seemed so totally beatable in so many ways...).

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:34pm

I do give the coaches credit for not settling for the Don Barclay experience in trying left guard Josh Sitton at left tackle. Sitton was not great or maybe even good but he was not a disaster and Barclay has routinely been tied to ugly results when playing left tackle.

by TomC :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:24pm

He was fine in run blocking (no surprise). He started out well in pass protection, but by the 2nd half Griffen was beating him regularly. In my opinion (this is partially in response to Aaron's comment in the main article), the primary reason for Rodgers suddenly looking like himself late in the game was McCarthy's decision to leave a TE or FB in to help Sitton with Griffen. Sometimes it's better to have fewer guys out in routes and give them more time to get open.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:28pm

MM has been regularly criticized for refusing to allocate help in protection. His standard response is 'that is not what we do here" or similar

I am not joking.

by LyleNM :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:44pm

Ah, the old Steve Spurrier ploy.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:55pm

I prefer to think of it as The Mike Martz Demolition Derby. With a car worth 20 million or so.

by johonny :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:36pm

Mia-Ne Tom Brady has a losing record in Miami. I know, but honestly that can't explain this game. I honestly intended to watch the Bills-Jets game but kept eyeing this game because Miami played not great, but better than anyone could have expected. The Patriots refused to pass much of the first half and still managed to get Tom Brady hurt. The Dolphins game plan was to hit Tom Brady. They did, illegally at times. The Patriots seemed more interested not losing their QB than winning the game. They almost did both. It was an odd game. Miami is a dumpster fire and the front office, coaching staff, and roster will now implode. No doubt the Patriots will use this game to scout out the Miami players they want to steal from the new hires in Miami. AFCeast update. For 12th time in 13 years New England wins the AFC east. For the fifth straight year the east produces no wild card team. Woot that's exciting. This weekend showed AFC east football games could be fun, but they aren't relevant for three teams in it because the Jets, Bills, and Dolphins never win the division or get to the playoffs. Yawn. Jets meet General Pyrrhus. He congratulates you on your 10 wins. Are the Bills talented or is this team Rex Ryan unraveling? Is Mike Tannenbuam, the guy in charge of a AFC east team since 2006 with zero division titles, the man to lead Miami to the holly grail of 9 wins? Who cares. This division is hot garbage with one King. It's dull and now fallen to absurdly dull. Even when the Jets, Bills, or Dolphins are good they somehow lose everything. Either this changes or empty seat is going to be the only season ticket holder in Miami. He certainly the only one that showed up the last month in Miami.

by TimK :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:57pm

The worst looking hit I saw was Suh rolling up Brady's ankle, but on replay Suh was unbalanced by being face asked and so was essentially blocked into Brady by the OL.

It did seem strange that the Pats didn't commit to either going for the win all out, or resting vital players. That indecisiveness is not something that I recall from Belichick much in past seasons, but seems to have happened a few times this year.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:25pm

One of the defensive guys was interviewed after the game and (I'm having a hard time remembering which, and exactly what he said) he said either "We only had like 35 guys dressed today" or "we only had like 35 guys ok'd to play today".

Which makes the "what the heck are they doing" make a lot more sense.

by RickD :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 9:29pm

Based on the play-calling, I honestly don't think the Patriots cared if they won or not.

I only watched part of the 2nd half, after their last (only!) TD. It wasn't a Patriots' offense I recognized. They were running sideline routes that Brady doesn't do very well. Clearly they didn't want to risk Gronk over the middle. I have to think the highest priority was to avoid injuries. Why not just rest Brady and Gronk? That might be too obvious. For one thing, they needed Denver to want to win.

So, today I hear AJ McCarron is starting vs. the Steelers. The Steelers are favored over Cincy. If they win they go to Denver. Belichick is certainly capable of, at a minimum, not caring about getting the #1 seed if it means hosting Pittsburgh who, BTW, recently beat Denver.

Also, it's official that the Patriots led the league in man-games lost to injuries.

I don't really believe the game intentionally. It's more like they didn't care much about winning.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:37pm

If the Internet can be believed the Packers lost all their home games to divisional opponents for the first time since 1968

So that's something

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:03pm

Of course through the late 70s/80s/90s they had warm weather Tampa Bay in the NFC Central with them so I imagine that game was usually a gimme even if the Packers were lacking in the 70s and 80s. And if the Bucs did somehow beat them in Green Bay there were always the Detroit Lions as a backup win.

by Travis :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:17pm

FWIW, the Packers did lose every divisional game played in Green Bay in both 1986 (0-3) and 1987 (0-2), but won divisional games played in Milwaukee.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:45pm

Really cannot complain about the Packer defense which held Peterson in check while only giving up 13 points. Bridgewater did overthrow some open guys but GB also missed some other turnover chances along with some sacks.

The d-line in particular has been pretty solid. Just not getting any help from the offense

And punter Tim Masthay had better be at least challenged next training camp. He has been dreadful pretty much all season. Every third of fourth punt is shanked for 20-30 yards typically when GB is punting deep from its own end.

by jmaron :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:56pm

I've watched about 4-5 Packer games now, all late in the season. They seem like a team with a really weak offence but a very strong defence.

On the offensive side it's really seemed like a team thing - the oline can't block, receivers have trouble getting open and drop lots of passes and Rodgers doesn't seem as accurate as in the past.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:50pm

You've summed up the Packers problems pretty well. It hasn't been a single thing, but several different thing.

A lot of it does come down to injuries. Not only did the Pack lose Nelson, which cost them their deep game, but they also lost rookie Ty Montgomery after about 6 games, and while not a deep threat he was fairly consistent (especially compared to the current group) at both getting open and catching the ball (85% of targeted passes caught).

The O-line has also had it pretty rough with injuries. No one IR'd, but every player except Sitton missing at least some time, and most dealing with nagging injuries of some sort.

But there are other issue too. Rodgers' hasn't declined as much as his starts have, but he is playing worse. He's thrown something like 3-4 red zone INTs this season, which is about equal to the entire rest of his regular season career, although a couple have been on 4th down. Otherwise he's had a handful of off target passes each game, where it used to be fairly noteworthy when it did occur.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:02pm

After Journal Sentinel football writer Bob McGinn wrote a story stating the Packers have no speed on offense everyone in Packer country has been kvetching about the lack of team speed at the skill positions.

Green Bay has always preferred guys with hands who can run routes and if the player had speed great but it was never a core focus. And until this season the team managed to do pretty well on offense.

That is why I continue to believe that something is just flat out amiss inside the four walls of Lambeau. McCarthy has ten years of pretty good playcalling history and this year has been the most unimaginative in his tenure. HIs qb has a history of tremendous accuracy. Number 12 is scatterarmed. The receivers who catch anything within six feet drop balls repeatedly. Veteran receiver and veteran qb regularly read one another wrong leading to incompletions or interceptions.

Either someone has tampered with the water to make the group collectively stupider or some fundamental part of team building just has not happened.

Because this group is flat OFF. And that pre-dated the injuries to the offensive line which only exacerbated the matter

by Jay Z :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:27pm

I have come to the conclusion this needs to be McCarthy's last season in Green Bay.

Time runs out on coaches. When teams start acting in a confusing manner, that probably means the coach has lost the team. McCarthy has lost the team. Too much time there, too many bad playoff losses, I don't know.

The playoff record since the Super Bowl:
2011 - bad loss at home after 15-1 season
2012 - loss on the road, looked bad at times though it was on the road
2013 - lost at home though they actually played about as well as that team was capable of playing
2014 - blew a lead in a completely winnable game with some mistakes

Now I think they will lose in Washington. It probably won't look very good. Just don't think you can bring McCarthy back after that. No anger in that from me, but coaches just run out of time.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:36pm

he's clearly right up there with the likes of Halas and Shula. nobody in their right mind could consider firing such a legend.

The standard is the standard!

by dank067 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:45pm

I completely agree with you in principle that time eventually expires on just about all coaching regimes. I think Tanier did a nice piece on that when Reid left Philly. I do wonder though how much things got screwed up this year because McCarthy shuffled the offensive coaching staff and dramatically changed his role. If they had stayed the course maybe they could have done a better job adjusting and adapting when problems came up this year. Unfortunately I think it may prove impossible to fix some of the structural problems and relationships that appear to have been damaged. This year definitely has a "beginning of the end" vibe.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:08pm

It sure seems like he has alienated his quarterback who by all accounts is close to Clements and Rodgers was pretty upset at the 'demotion'.

Yes, Rodgers is the employee. Yes, he is a paid professional. Yes, he is going to 'lose' in any such situation with McCarthy because Thompson will back his head coach.

But really everyone is losing now if the two of them have an estranged working relationship. And it sure radiates that sense from afar.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:39pm

Do you really, honestly, believe that McCarthy would win if it came down to him or Rodgers because of some workplace dysfunction? Besides the fact that it's McCarthy's primary job to keep the workplace working, Rodgers is one of the top 10 most valuable assets in the sport. McCarthy isn't.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:56pm

Nobody is getting fired or traded. But I do think that Ted once inserted into the discussion will be highly inclined to tell his QB to STFU and play.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:07pm

And to follow up the mood in GB has turned Davante Adams into the sullen 14 year old as witnessed by him loafing on pass routes where he was clearly not the primary option.

I do not think I have seen a receiver, much less any player, not give serious effort in a regular season game since the end of the Ray Rhodes disaster.

It just does not happen.

So Lacy and STarks both respectively get benched for fumbling but Adams stays on the field when he's lollygagging through pass routes?

That makes no sense. And I don't know if Mike even knows what to do about it

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:10pm

I really do not get the Adams focus this year. He's pretty much proven himself to be terrible. Slow, bad route runner, and bad hands. At this point they should be throwing some undrafted free agents out there and seeing what sticks.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:19pm

Green Bay believes in the process. The guy was drafted in the second round. He was pretty decent his rookie year battling through injuries. He showed up to camp in great shape. He showed good effort.

And then kersplat.

I figure he gets one more season and THEN MM and Co move on to something else. But yes, he's on thin ice.

And the issue is that he allows the hand checking to impact his routes. Adams gets really bothered by defenders touching him which if you think aobut it is absolutely nuts. But he does. And nobody can get him to just focus on PLAYING.

by joe football :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:51pm

If you've watched baylor the last couple years, half the team jogging on pass routes is actually the future of football and mccarthy and/or adams are just visionaries bringing it to the NFL

by Willsy :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 8:18pm

Great point about the punter.
As an Australian I can assure there would be a few hundred Aussie footballers who would be much better kickers than Masthay and they would be able to tackle. I started looking forward to him punting.

by jmaron :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:54pm

"It wasn't smart, but it wasn't even nearly the dumbest quarterback play of that game. Teddy Bridgewater is not a leftie, and should not be throwing balls left-handed into coverage while falling down."

that was so atypical of Bridgewater, one of the major differences between him and TJack and Ponder has been that he very rarely does stupid things...but that was a doozey

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:46pm

It was a stupid throw, but also an incredible catch. Crazy good catch.

by jmaron :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:10pm

yes it was, at first I thought no way he caught that ball.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 12:59pm

It was Bridgewater, not Peterson, who coughed up the fumble at the end of the game. This may have been Bridgewater's worst performance of the year, although with that atrocity of an offensive line, it can be hard to draw cause and effect. The early overthrow on what should have been an easy touchdown, the left handed int, and the drop on what should have been an routine handoff, were pretty brutal, not offset by anything exceptional, or even very good.

A team with a terrible o-line, mediocre (at best) receiving, and average (hopefully) quarterbacking isn't going to beat the current Seattle club anywhere. I really think Seattle's improvement on the o-line is not noticed enough, and it is that change that has allowed Wilson, in a 3 receiver set, to become conventionally very productive, which gives Seattle, with their great defense, an extremely good chance to win the title this year. I suppose if Seattle has a terrible week of preparation, due to their recent stomping of the Vikings, they could have enough terrible mental mistakes on offense (I dont think there is any chance of Seattle's defense doing that) to produce 3 or 4 turnovers. Maybe Walsh could then have big game, with 3 or 4 long field goals, and the Vikings get 12-16 points, making it a competitive game in the 4th quarter. Much more likely is that Seattle scores 13 or more in the 1st half, the Vikings offense doesn't cross midfield until the 4th quarter, and the Seahawks win extremely comfortably.

Having said that, it is much better for the Vikings to have won the division in Green Bay. They aren't good enough to be a credible threat in the NFC anyways, and it was good to have them end Green Bay's presumptive lock on the division.

by jmaron :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:08pm

I would agree that was Bridgewater's worst game this year because he made stupid mistakes he typically doesn't make even when he plays badly.

His misses on deep passes are always the same - 3-4 yards deep. I wonder if this is just fear of throwing picks, or something he just does. He's very accurate otherwise.

ELO suggests the Vikings have about a 40% chance of winning. That seems very high to me, but I'm pretty certain my own feelings about football scores would lose out to simple rating systems.

I would like to see a lot more McKinnon in the game. They've had a few plays with both McKinnon and Peterson on the field at the same time. That makes a lot of sense to me.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:21pm

I just can't get invested in any hope for schematic improvement, with an offense which blocks as poorly as the Vikings block. Lipstick on swine, etc..

When Loaddholdt, and then Sullivan went down, I didn't think there was a chance in Valhalla that the Vikings would win 11 games, and the division, so I'm as happy with this season as I've been since 2009.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:43pm

You have to figure maybe a 10% chance AP just goes nuts and wins the game, and then 30% chance of stuff like fumble luck, special teams silliness, Russell Wilson getting hurt etc.

by lokiwi :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:12pm

Definitely a bad week for Bridgewater. It almost seems like he does worse the less they ask of him. He only had 4 or 5 pass attempts in the second half, one of them being that left-handed mess. Seemed like he was checked out of the game by half.

And for the o-line, the way that Kalil was completely flustered by even simple stunts has to be very concerning. It's one thing to see him get beat physically on the edge, but there were at least 2 sacks where he was standing there blocking nobody because they got the assignments wrong. And Seattle is very good at running stunts.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:23pm

Yeah, it is as bad a playoff mismatch, in terms of defensive front vs. o-line, as I can think of in recent history.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:23pm

Yeah, it is as bad a playoff mismatch, in terms of defensive front vs. o-line, as I can think of in recent history.

by Willsy :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 8:43pm

Will as a fellow co Vikings sufferer this has been a great season for one of your mantras i.e. they play hard and tough football. The queality of the D, their open field tackling in particular, has been terrific.
Kalil has definately played much better this year BUT I think the concerning thing is that we have seen his ceiling. The problem is that as you know Loadholt will never be mistaken for a dancer from the Kirov and both guards need replacing. So for the level of the pick involved we have ended up with a functional LT but one that is a long way from elite.
To be fair Kalil was the consensus pick and it was a clear need. We can always speculate what would have happened if they traded down etc. but no one is that brave.
Zimmer seems to encapsulate the essence of "Will Ball" to me. Straightforward, no nonsense but with an ability to enunciate a strategic plan as well as manage the teams's mental state, this I believe is called coaching.

by Willsy :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 8:43pm

Will as a fellow co Vikings sufferer this has been a great season for one of your mantras i.e. they play hard and tough football. The queality of the D, their open field tackling in particular, has been terrific.
Kalil has definately played much better this year BUT I think the concerning thing is that we have seen his ceiling. The problem is that as you know Loadholt will never be mistaken for a dancer from the Kirov and both guards need replacing. So for the level of the pick involved we have ended up with a functional LT but one that is a long way from elite.
To be fair Kalil was the consensus pick and it was a clear need. We can always speculate what would have happened if they traded down etc. but no one is that brave.
Zimmer seems to encapsulate the essence of "Will Ball" to me. Straightforward, no nonsense but with an ability to enunciate a strategic plan as well as manage the teams's mental state, this I believe is called coaching.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 10:16pm

Oh, as much as their inability to block anyone has frustrated me, they overall, especially the defense, have been an easy group to root for. They are very disciplined, and they play very hard. The coaching has been solid, and I really disagree with those who have complained about Norv. To get a mid range DVOA rank with that o-line and receiving corps, and a 2nd year qb who is not blessed with tremendous throwing talent, is pretty optimal.

by jmaron :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:36pm

They certainly didn't ask him to do much - he struggled in just about every down and distance. he was 3/6 for 42 yards on first down (1 run for 2 yards)...3 first downs. 3/6 for 9 yds on second down for 9 yards (1 sack for -3). 3/6 on 3rd down for 48 yds (2 sacks for -8) and 1 int.

by andrew :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:08pm

Yeah, glad the Vikings won it.

They weren't gonna sniff the superbowl either way (oddly, Arizona is the team I think they match up the best against), and this way they at least have these things (Zimmer winning at Lambeau, winning division, etc) off their checklist of things they never do.

by Xexyz :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:13pm

Those overthrows are my biggest concern. Those are throws you have to make if you want to be a solid NFL starting quarterback, and he's shown marginal - at best - improvement in making them.

by osoviejo :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:10pm

"Earl Thomas got away with a pretty flagrant pass interference or contact flag..."

Looked like he took a charge to me, but maybe I'm just a homer.

by jacobk :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:29pm

He was obviously only standing in place there because he was stoned out of his mind on Adderall.

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:41pm

I agree (both about the play and about being a homer). It looked to me like Thomas beat Fitz to the spot and Fitz was the primary initiator.

It actually reminded me a little bit of the controversial Gronk play from a few weeks ago against Denver (unlike Gronk, however, Fitz didn't push off). I'm very glad when refs don't call that a defensive penalty. Covering receivers is hard enough in today's game.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:40pm

Carolina-Tampa felt like Carolina was a really good team, and Tampa wasn't. That's my high-quality analysis of things.

The weird thing is, Tampa really didn't play that badly. 50% on third-down conversions and didn't have many penalties (this year's worst bugaboo was penalties). Three turnovers turned into three TDs for Carolina; the Panthers got opportunities and converted, Tampa marched down the field and were stopped. Martin yet again got bottled up on the ground, and Winston's reasonably good numbers are skewed because he was 16/18 throwing to RBs, and downfield stuff was much messier (thanks to the usual drops).

Still, Tampa is a team that recently was an utter dumpster fire of suck, and now there's a dynamic, exciting offense with lots of potential. 12 of 13 draft picks the last two years have been on offense, and you can really tell.

Conversely, for the defense, 12 of 13 draft picks the last two years have been on offense, and you can really tell.

Mario Williams will be motivated next year, right? Does he want to play on a line next to Gerald McCoy? Does he have an alarm clock font fetish?

by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:35pm

Ah, so that's why. I was looking at leaders in yards per play and was shocked to see Tampa in fourth place. They do have a lot of turnovers, but that wouldn't fully explain their lack of points. But Tampa led the league in yards lost on offense to penalties, and as a Seahawks fan I know how ruinous those can be. It looks like they're extremely successful on first downs (I'm guessing play-action off the threat of Martin) but decline from there. Do they run a lot of play-action on second down?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:30pm

Tampa has had lots of big plays which probably skews things numbers-wise, and there has seemed to be a consistent process of get a big play, rush to the line in a huff, and then do something stupid and get penalties. The penalties have been an utter killer this year; I'd have to think rookie LT Donovan Smith is one of the league leaders in penalties, and, in the Thursday night game against St. Louis 2 1/2 weeks back, DE William Gholston got his sixth personal foul of the year, which led the league. He's not even a full-time player; the Bucs DEs are bad enough that they regularly rotate them out, presumably so that the garbage smell doesn't make Gerald McCoy vomit. So, a part-time player, leading the league in 15-yard penalties. That explains it all.

No clue on their tendency to play-action on first/second down more than others; there's lots of play-action being a Doug Martin-focused offense, but not sure about tendencies on certain downs.

Also, one of the reasons Tampa probably has a big yards-per-play average is the defense is absolutely awful, and there have been a lot of garbage yards in catch-up time when defenses are just trying to prevent the long TD pass. When a defense is basically playing quarters defense throughout the fourth quarter, it's easy to pick up 6-8 yards per play throwing swing passes to the RBs.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:48pm

Wrong spot.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:50pm

It wasn't just big plays. The Bucs are 4th in yards per drive and 5th in plays per drive.

Turnovers really killed them though, while they were bad with INTs they were awful with fumbles.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 4:10pm

Turnovers itself means a worse offense, but it doesn't really impact offensive scoring. After all, from a scoring standpoint a turnover is generally better than a punt, because the opposing offense has better field position, which means their drive will be over quicker and the team's own offense will get the ball back sooner. Look at Indianapolis last year: as turnover-prone as Tampa this year, but still 7th in points per drive.

Tampa Bay had the fewest percentage of drives that ended in punts, and the 4th-fewest percentage that ended in punts+turnovers. What hurt were the penalties on offense, as well as the third-lowest field-goal percentage.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:05pm

There have to be some interesting stats with Tampa, where the first four games were awful, the next eight were very good, and the last four bad again. Part of Tampa's terrible FG% is Kyle Brindza *spits on the ground and crosses self three times* was the kicker for those first four games, and only converted 6 of 12 attempts (he also missed 2 of 8 XPs); Connor Barth was a very respectable 23/28 on FGs. Likewise, Winston threw 15 INTs all year, and I think nine of them were during those first four games.

The fundamental issue really was, as you pointed out, penalties. Lots on defense, even more on offense. I haven't seen a full list of penalties by player for the year yet, but I have to imagine a couple of Tampa's offensive linemen are up on that list. I'd also add in drops, notably with Mike Evans, but everybody has developed stone hands to a certain extent.

I think part of it is also Winston is still young, and is much better when there's more space, but, when things get compressed down in the red zone, there's less space to get balls in, and things sputter offensively. It's easy to get yards until the field gets tight, and then it's far more difficult.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:16pm

I haven't seen a full list of penalties by player for the year yet, but I have to imagine a couple of Tampa's offensive linemen are up on that list.

Yep: http://www.nflpenalties.com/all-players.php?year=2015

Sort by penalty count and Cherilus and Smith are in the top 25. Evans is surprisingly also there, considering no other wide receiver has more than 6 penalties. the headlines were all about Gronkowski getting called for OPI, but Evans had it just as bad.

by TomC :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:42pm

In a similar analysis of another game nobody watched: The Bears played the Lions. The Lions won.

OK, I can't actually restrain myself to that level, so here are thoughts:

1) Nobody quit. Both teams played hard to the end. One would expect that for Chicago, for whom the arrow is supposedly pointing up, and who has a coach that has full front-office support and will be there for at least another couple of years. For Detroit, it says something about Caldwell and his staff. Maybe not enough to keep his job, but something.

2) The Lions need to upgrade their OL and figure out how they want to run the ball. Whatever they're doing now isn't working, even against a very bad Bears run defense.

3) Very hard to evaluate the Lions' defense (beyond the DL) against the popgun offense the Bears had (100% street free agents at WR and TE).

4) 2009-era Bad Jay Cutler made an appearance, pressing very hard because his receivers are so bad, resulting in 3 picks. I'm personally not worried about it.

5) In the 3rd quarter, the Bears came out on one drive with 3 RBs (Forte, Langford, Carey) and did some creative things out of that set. Then they abandoned it and went pass-happy with no receivers. Strange decision, and much less entertaining than seeing them explore all the 3RB possibilities (especially because all 3 guys are very talented).

by panthersnbraves :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:18pm

The loss of Tillman puts the thin Panthers Secondary at New England Offensive Line-level, I think.

Thanks for mentioning the forgotten league-leaders... Too bad they were flat last week, but they still have a chance to be "The Worst 18-1 Team Ever!" CaMVP!

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:24pm

Mario Williams feels like a Belichik reclamation project. He's already made a pile of cash, and might be looking for near certain division winner, with an excellent chance to play in February.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:28pm

Or pete Carol or the packers. Its exactly the right kind of high upside, low cost move.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:33pm

No, no, he's going to get a "how'd you like to be Reggie White going to the Packers" speech from Lovie and come to Tampa where he'll turn everything around and turn the pile of excrement Tampa plays in the secondary into Ronnie Lott the CB and also Ronnie Lott the super-safety.

Seriously, if he comes to Tampa and can consistently pressure the QB, he'll pretty much be football Jesus for a while.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:48pm

Lovie did convince Peppers to sigh with the Bears.

by mehllageman56 :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 11:35am

Not sure if the Pats, or anyone in the division, have the cap room. Over the Cap had them at a 120 percent committment index, just below the Jets at 122, and both the Dolphins and Bills have actual cap issues. Also, the Pats already have a good pass rush, and they have Ninkovich and Chandler Jones coming up in free agency in the next couple of years.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 4:39pm

The experts have been claiming Mario Williams mailed it in this year, but he effected the game yesterday (sack, stuff run plays) in the first half. I'm not sure if it's that he was loafing or that he did not fit the system Ryan put in.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:49pm

My consolation prize for the expected Seahwak crushing of the Vikings is that I really am intrigued by the propsect of a low scoring slugfest between the Panthers and Seahawks in the divisional round. Not much of an award for a team that went 15-1. The league would never do it, but it'd be entertaining as hell to have the number one seeds' GMs, immediately after the wild card games are concluded, choose their opponent on national t.v..

by Fierydemise :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:55pm

I don't know why you say the league would never do it. Give them an extra hour or two of TV time to sell. Maybe even do it like the College Football rankings and do it Monday evening, free day of speculation for all the NFL media properties and then an hour long selection program on Monday night to sell.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:01pm

I think the GM and coaches would be cowards about it, for fear of giving offense, and the cliched "bulletin board material", and would work mightily to influence ownership. I agree that it would be a prime time ratings winner, except I'd do it 8 P.M. on Sunday night.

by ZDNeal :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:04pm

Owners do love money they could avoid sharing with players.

by Perfundle :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:54pm

The biggest problem I can see is that it's only two decisions, and most of the time it would be a no-brainer.

2014: Seattle chooses between Dallas and Carolina. Carolina is the obvious choice, even if they came on strong at the end of the season and were much better than their record; Dallas was the only team to beat Seattle at home.
New England chooses between Indianapolis and Baltimore. Again, Indy is the better choice, as the Patriots have had their way with them.

2013: Seattle chooses between New Orleans and San Francisco. New Orleans would be the pick, as San Francisco is a dangerous division opponent that had just beaten Seattle a few weeks prior.
Denver chooses between San Diego and Indianapolis. Probably Indianapolis here, since San Diego beat them at home.

2012: Atlanta chooses between Green Bay and Seattle. This is a tricky one. By statistical measures, Seattle is the better team, but they just lost their best pass rusher, and Atlanta still remembers getting blasted 48-21 at home by Rodgers two years ago. This one could go either way.
Denver chooses between Baltimore and Houston. Likely Baltimore here. Both opponents collapsed down the stretch, but Denver had just blown out Baltimore on the road, and lost at home to Houston early in the season.

2011: Green Bay chooses between New York and New Orleans. Giants are the obvious pick.
New England chooses between Houston and Tebow. Again, obvious.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 4:02pm

This is a league that can sell commercial spots for teams making 3rd round draft picks.

by andrew :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 4:47pm

wouldn't you at least wait until the injury status reports are out?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 4:55pm

Nah, part of the fun would be making guys pick while in the dark about injuries.

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 4:03pm

As a Seahawks fan, if I may engage in a bit of "onedownsmanship" with you, I think you are underestimating the Vikings chances. Yes, the 'Hawks are favorites, but in no NFL game should we expect a crushing. Minnesota has a decent defense at full strength and they could conceivably replicate what the Rams did last week or what the Cowboys did in Week 8 and pull off an upset.

And by the way, I love the idea of letting playoff opponents pick their foes. Why not start it in the first round? Let Minnesota and Cincinnati pick their Wild Card opponents.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 4:24pm

HA! My earliest football memory is of a wildly underrated Kansas City Chiefs team soundly thumping a 13 point favorite Viking team in the 4th Super Bowl. I was about 200 feet away when Drew Pearson created the term "Hail Mary" in the NFL. I've seen 4 Super Bowl crushings of the favorite team from childhood. I watched Gary Anderson miss his first field goal of the year, from near chip shot range in a conference championship. I watched my favorite team thoroughly whip the Saints in the Superdome in a conference championship, except in terms of fumbling and catching easy ints. I didn't watch, until a day later, the Vikings get crushed by the Giants in a conference championship, so certain I was of the outcome.

I will not onedowned, by a pretender whose favorite team actually won a championship in the recent past!!! My pessimism has been fairly purchased!

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 4:46pm

Nicely done Will.

by Joe Pancake :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:40pm

"My pessimism has been fairly purchased!"

Haha... Okay, you are right, a Seahawks fans should not attempt a round of onedownsmanship against a Vikings fan. But I'm no pretender. On the contrary, I've been a fan since almost the beginning, and so I'm still not used to an Seattle sports team being a perennial contender. In the sports fan psyche, 35 years of misery is difficult to overcome, even with a four year stretch of great success -- especially given how last season ended...

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:13pm

There are really interesting differences in futile sports fandom. There's the kind of fan whose team has never experienced any success. That's hard to find in the NFL anymore, but I suppose Cleveland comes closest, given it has been 25 years, and a different franchise ago, from a playoff appearance. Texas hasn't been around long enough, and has had too many non-losing seasons, to qualify. Jacksonvile made a conference championship pretty early after the franchise started. The Bucs had about a 7 year run of excellence which included a championship. No recent NFL fans have had a multi-decades long run of utter futility that some other fans sports of franchises, in other leagues, have had.

Vikings fan futility is in the form of a team which has had some measure of memorable success (admittedly less so in the past 15 years), and some great players, but a large number of awfully soul crushing playoff disappointments, without ever experiencing a championship. The Seattle experience last year was interesting, for the aficianado of such things; the championship game which is, for all intents and purposes, lost, then won in an incredible turn of events, then, ultimately lost, via another incredible turn of events. Having a blow out championship win, however, a mere 1 year previously, negates any possibility of a Seahawks fan successfully engaging in one downmanship. Sorry, your suffering is insufficient! HA!, HA!, HA!, HA!, HA!!!

by coremill :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:10pm

Cleveland 2.0 has made the playoffs, in 2002. In typical Browns fashion, they lost a wildcard game to Pittsburgh 36-33 in which they blew a 17-point lead to a team QB'd by Tommy Maddox. They also had a 12 point lead, with the ball, with 6 minutes left, which PFR estimates as 99.8 win probability. Being the Browns, they still lost.

by Willsy :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 9:45pm

Will I think there is a terrific paly to be written here.

Blending together a Greek Tradgedy with the chorus and an element of Shakespeare using your quote, "my pesimissism has been fairly purchashed" is tremendous.

The play could be divided into the 4 SB's and the 4 Championship losses. Then on top of that elements like Drew Pearson's push etc could be included.

Your point is well made, it is bad to be terrible but if that is all you are then you have low expectations. But when you have been in 8 championship games and have no SB victories to show for it then you call call it "Successful Futilty".

We seem to run into teams of destiny,

The Raiders were due, The Steel Curtain, Larry Csonka, Hank Stram and the trap plays. All of these had a sense of inevitability especially the KC game as everyone thought the Vikes were so much better.


by scraps :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 11:55pm

Buffalo Bills fandom miseries are equal to the Vikings; and of course they have years of playoff-free seasons that I think right now they are the unchampion.

by andrew :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 8:54pm

So your earliest memory was from the game after they won an NFL championship, albeit the one with least value in league history (yeah the Colts also lost a Superbowl after an NFL title, but they won it two years later)? I would argue Staubach created the term because he described it thusly after the game. That was the one where Tarkenton's father died in the 3rd quarter, and he heard about it from one of the postgame tv broadcasts.

My earliest football memory was a bit later, from the 76 season, but it was a redskins cowboys game, couldn't get much NFL live on the armed forces (AFRTS) southern command network which was all we had where I was at the time. I finally go to see the Vikings that year in the NFC championship game against the Rams, so at least my first memory of seeing them was a good one. From there on (starting with the Raiders superbowl where McNeil blocked a punt in a scoreless game and recovered at their 3 yard line, only to see them fumble followed by Clarence Davis running for about 50 yards from about the 2), and downhill from there.

All those other things you mention I'm right with you, albeit not in person. For the Falcons game I had some volunteer work I had promised to do much earlier that I couldn't get out of so had to leave with them up 20-7, came back just in time to watch the final field goal in overtime. My recording of the game ran out of room just before Anderson's miss.

1976, 1998, 2009... 1987 following the win over the Niners.... and maybe November of the 1998 season... are the only times I legitimately believed they were going to win the Superbowl. I certainly don't feel that way now. But I feel more hopeful about their future than I have at any point since the late 80s, and that includes 98 and 09. Probably delusion, but hey, its all we got.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 9:22pm

Sorry to piggyback on your excellent post (I feel there are good reasons to feel hopeful as a Vikings fan, btw), but I have an earliest memory of my favorite football team worth mentioning. My father was listening to the radio in my parents' bedroom, and I wandered in, wondering what he was doing. He told me he was listening to the Jets game, and that they were so bad the television network wouldn't carry it. He was listening to the New York Jets giving the 1980 Aints their only victory of the season. The next year, 1981, was the year of the New York Sack Exchange. I've rooted for them since.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 10:51pm

Well, I exagerrated by a few months. My actual earliest memory was the 1st game I attended, in September of '69, when Joe Kapp threw 7 td passes against the Colts. I was hooked, like a degenerate gambler who hits on his first pull of a slot machine. I then attended the NFL Championship game crushing of the Browns, on a bitterly cold day, in which Joe Kapp knocked out linebacker Jim Houston cold, when Houston went low to tackle a scrambling Kapp, who caught him flush on the jaw with his knee. It never occurred to my very young brain that the Super Bowl opponent Chiefs' roster was filled with HOFers, too, and one of them was a qb who might not be able to outdrink the Vikings qb, but who could definitely outplay him. Another Chief HOFer was Jan Stenerud, who had about 25% more range and 20% more accuracy than the Vikings straight ahead kicker, Fred Cox. The grown ups should have definitely grasped the implications of the Chiefs clear superiority at those two positions however, and thus how ridiculous it was that the Vikings were so heavily favored. That game was worse than discovering that Santa was a fraud.

Since then, it is the January 2010 Superdome debacle which I found most distressing. They absolutely dominated both lines of scrimmage, and for all the yelping about Favre's late int, he outplayed Brres by a giant margin that day, but the Vikings dbs kept dropping easy ints, in what should have been about a 20 point victory. Egads.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 10:51pm

Well, I exagerrated by a few months. My actual earliest memory was the 1st game I attended, in September of '69, when Joe Kapp threw 7 td passes against the Colts. I was hooked, like a degenerate gambler who hits on his first pull of a slot machine. I then attended the NFL Championship game crushing of the Browns, on a bitterly cold day, in which Joe Kapp knocked out linebacker Jim Houston cold, when Houston went low to tackle a scrambling Kapp, who caught him flush on the jaw with his knee. It never occurred to my very young brain that the Super Bowl opponent Chiefs' roster was filled with HOFers, too, and one of them was a qb who might not be able to outdrink the Vikings qb, but who could definitely outplay him. Another Chief HOFer was Jan Stenerud, who had about 25% more range and 20% more accuracy than the Vikings straight ahead kicker, Fred Cox. The grown ups should have definitely grasped the implications of the Chiefs clear superiority at those two positions however, and thus how ridiculous it was that the Vikings were so heavily favored. That game was worse than discovering that Santa was a fraud.

Since then, it is the January 2010 Superdome debacle which I found most distressing. They absolutely dominated both lines of scrimmage, and for all the yelping about Favre's late int, he outplayed Brres by a giant margin that day, but the Vikings dbs kept dropping easy ints, in what should have been about a 20 point victory. Egads.

by liquidmuse3 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:58pm


by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 1:59pm

I'd like to see someone not as lazy as me investigate injury rates in divisional games, versus non-divisional games. My perception, which may be a hallucination, is that injury rates are higher in games betweem divisional rivals.

by Dave Bernreuther :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:47pm

Could also just be that you remember more past injuries in games against rivals due to playing them twice as often. So not a hallucination...

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:00pm

Re: DeMarco Murray with 49 yards and a 54-yard carry. James White had a similar stat - 2 catches for 63 yards, including one for 68. (Sadly, that one play represented more than half of Brady's passing yards.)

by jtr :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:01pm

The Jets continue their fine tradition of missing out on the playoffs by throwing three picks in week 17. Sanchez had a gem against the Dolphins in 2012; I distinctly remember one of his interceptions being targeted at a guard.


by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 4:54pm

They don't have a fine tradition of barely missing out on the playoffs. This is their first year with ten wins and no playoff berth ever. Usually they tank to miss the playoffs at 8-8, and they needed to win that game against the Dolphins to end the 2011 season, and a couple of other teams to lose. In 2011 and 1993 they were 8-5 and lost the last three games to blow playoff spots. They also kept the defending Super Bowl champion Pats out of the playoffs in 2002 by going 9-7.

Both Miami and Denver have several seasons missing the playoffs while winning 10 or more games. The Broncos went 11-5 in 1985 and lost a playoff spot on tiebreakers to the New England Patriots and ... the New York Jets. So, in a way, this is just karmic revenge for Jets fans. Most of their heartbreaking failures came in the playoffs or the offseason.

by Travis :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:24pm

They don't have a fine tradition of barely missing out on the playoffs.

Sure they do, it's just more (as you said) of a choking away the season rather than being screwed out of a playoff spot. In addition to what you wrote above:

2008: 8-3 after 11 games, coming off wins at the Patriots and at the 10-0 Titans, then lost three of the next four to putrid western division teams. Eliminated just after their Week 17 game kicked off. Finished 9-7, only AFC team with winning record to miss playoffs.

2000: 9-4 after 13 games, then lost final three, including a 10-7 loss to the Lions when they missed game-tying 35-yard field goal. Week 17, blew 14-0 lead to the Ravens, including a pick-6 and two punt return TDs.

1997: 8-4 after 12 games, then lost next two to 5-7 Bills and 1-12 Colts. Miss out on playoffs when they blew 10-0 lead to the Lions, helped by non-QBs Ray Lucas and Leon Johnson throwing interceptions. Finished 9-7, only AFC team with winning record to miss playoffs.

by Led :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:48pm

But they also squeaked into the playoffs in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2006, 2009, 2010. So if you ignore the counter examples, sure they have such a tradition. It's more accurate to say that since Parcells they have a tradition of being generally competitive and on the playoff bubble, but held back from true contention by flawed and/or downright poor QB play (and the gosh darn Patriots owning the division).

by Travis :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:57pm

Find any other team in the league with a similar tradition of repeatedly being well in front for a playoff spot, then blowing it on their own merits.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:51pm

Huh? 2008 Patriots missed the playoffs at 11-5.

by Travis :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:01pm

Ugh, yeah. Make that one of two.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:18pm

You're correct that the Jets have fizzled to earth, blowing several possible playoff berths over the years. You didn't even include the worst one, 1986, because they still snuck into the playoffs on tiebreakers while tied with the Bengals, who blew them out.

My main point was that this really was the first time they've been kicked out on tiebreakers while pulling off ten wins or more, and that fans of other teams have more reasons to gripe about this. I also wouldn't throw this under the same umbrella as the other collapses, because it wasn't a collapse; they won five straight to get the win and you are in chance.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:19pm

Now, it wasn't a good team by any means, but the 2003 Vikings team deserves mention, in terms of memorably blowing a playoff appearnce in the last game. Hell, shortly after they lost on a desperation heave into the end zone, on the last play of the game, the rule was changed, no longer allowing a zebra to openly declare an out of bounds catch a completion!

by Duff Soviet Union :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 2:34am

Missing the playoffs on a Josh McCown to Nate Poole pseudo hailmary on a play that was so ridiculous it prompted a rule change has to be on the shortlist of worst regular season losses ever.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:20pm

SD had a bottom third level roster before this season began. Injuries then replaced half the roster with street free agents, especially along the offensive line. I felt bad for Rivers in exactly the same way I did one year earlier, when I watched the chargers o line nearly hand the sack record to Justin Houston while simulatenously getting Rivers nearly killed. Its laughable in a tragic way how little has changed one year later.

I know pff gave him a really negative grade and scott certainly feels no sympathy, but its not easy going to work knowing you're being set up to fail. Its like 2010 colts but on steroids.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:24pm

The fighting Omars get backdoored in thanks to the final wear-off of a seemingly 'decent' Fitzmagick season.

Unfortunately, in the playoffs you have to rely on your own merit.
Given the stakes, how the Browns weren't buried 15 minutes in is mind boggling (though, all too familiar a scenario under this POS coach).

The standard is the standard!

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:30pm

SOme other thoughts:

I thought the jets bills game was well played by both offenses and defenses. I know fitz had three interceptions, but I could understand all three being picked.

Frankly, this wasn't a let down but more a well played game that any afc playoff team could have lost. Sometimes that happens.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:00pm

Perhaps it was well played (Fitz didn't have a good game, but I won't argue), but the Jets made several mental errors which others have written about on this thread and others. The one half glass full thought I had going into the last couple of weeks was that if the Jets won 10 or 11 and still got left out on tiebreakers, they would get to face the two wild card rivals who got in instead of them. Both of those games are on the road, but I think Bowles will have them absolutely angry in those two match-ups.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 8:05pm

I didn't mean to say fitz played well, but he was ok and Marshall and Decker were both really good. The defense didn't pitch a shutout, but it held up ok against a well designed bills offensive approach. I just thought it was a well played game for the most part. yes there was the kembrel drop that was a blown coverage. yes there was the missed fg and extra point. yes there was some crazy decisions to run with 2 min left in the 4th quarter. But I said it was fairly well played and I didn't like the narrative that it was the same ol jets losing a game they shouldn't. The jets are good, but not some kind of dominant 13-3 squad that shouldn't lose games on the road to divisional opponent.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 9:29pm

The Thompkins play was just insane. If the Steelers actually go on a run and win it all, it should be remembered like the Flacco bomb against Denver, it was just that crazy. So close. And yes, saying it was the same ol Jets demeans the Bills, who probably are a more talented team than their record. And it was a entertaining game. But the Jets were not smart like they have been the rest of the year. Hopefully they keep the core intact and this failure burns so hard they become the kind of dominant 13-3 squad that doesn't lose games on the road to a divisional opponent.

by jmaron :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:30pm

I think the declines in NE and GB's offences show just how small the difference is between a top offence and a weak one. A few key injuries and it all goes in the tank.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:35pm

Gb's is one key injury. The ne was a total collapse of injuries across the entire offense.

by big10freak :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:45pm

Please do not buy into what GB management is trying to peddle. Again, the offensive line issues only erupted in the last 4-5 weeks. The GB offensive slide took place WAY before the tackles started to get hurt.

It's multiple contributors to the current ugliness.

by Blykmyk44 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:07pm

Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense really took off in the second half despite injuries to Lynch, Graham, Okung and Rawls.

During the game vs STL when Lockett was in concussion protocol the Seahawks were running out a line ups of: Wilson (3rd Round), Jackson (UDFA), Baldwin (UDFA), Kearse (UDFA), Smith (UDFA), Helfet (UDFA), Bailey (UDFA), Britt (2nd round), Lewis (UDFA), Sweezey (7th Round former DL) and Gilliam (UDFA)

Even yesterday, the team was playing 7 or 8 undrafted players at a time including 4 out of 5 OL.

I think one big question for a team like NE is why are they bringing in a person like Steven Jackson to play RB which is about as low of a ceiling you can get instead of what Seattle does in trying to find younger athletic guys that might actually be a difference maker.

by Guest789 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:16pm

Because Steven Jackson deserves to play for a winning team once in his career dammit!

Seriously, I looked it up. This is the first time in his career that he finished a season on a team with a winning record. Staggering.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:40pm

My thoughts on the Bears this year.

My week 17 final thoughts on the Bears.

This offensive coaching staff is amazing. The offensive line looked fine in almost every game despite having to rotates guys in an out due to injury. The receivers were really crappy outside of Jeffery and yet Cutler managed his best year ever.

Unfortunately, most of the major contributors to the offense are veterans getting up there in age. Forte is probably gone. Cutler is 32, which is typically the end of a QB's prime years. Bennett—who I like as a receiver and blocker even though his DVOA has always kind of sucked—is probably gone.

The defense sucked as expected. I think McPhee is the only player I'd describe as above average on that side of the ball. Although, I think Fuller still has potential. Willie Young also started playing well towards the end of the year I felt. Inside linebackers and safeties are desperately needed. Every other position could use a talent infusion.

Special teams sucked and that was a disappointment. Gould missed a few he really shouldn't have. Mariani is the worst return man I've seen in 10 years. On the rare occasions Mariani managed a decent return, it seemed there was a flag every time.

Overall, I'm very happy with the Fox regime though. You can clearly see players learning their positions, being put in positions where they can succeed (or given their talent, fail the least), and adjustments as games went along.

by TomC :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:59pm

Always interested to hear your thoughts, tuluse. A few comments:

Unfortunately, most of the major contributors to the offense are veterans getting up there in age. Forte is probably gone. Cutler is 32, which is typically the end of a QB's prime years.

I think that's overly pessimistic. Brady is 38, Brees and Palmer are 36, Manning was 38 and good last year, Ben is 33...

Bennett—who I like as a receiver and blocker even though his DVOA has always kind of sucked—is probably gone.

I agree they'll miss his blocking, but my eyes and DVOA agree that Miller is a vastly better receiver (+24.9% vs. -10.2% and none of the soul-crushing drops).

The defense sucked as expected. I think McPhee is the only player I'd describe as above average on that side of the ball. Although, I think Fuller still has potential. Willie Young also started playing well towards the end of the year I felt. Inside linebackers and safeties are desperately needed. Every other position could use a talent infusion.

Goldman is definitely above average, but I agree in general. The love for John Timu on the meathead blogs and radio is killing me; he's Shea McClellin with a ponytail. So yeah, they need 2 DEs, 2 ILBs, and a safety at least. But I am willing to believe that Fangio is a good enough schemer that the defense will be passable if they successfully fill at least two of those holes.

Special teams sucked and that was a disappointment. Gould missed a few he really shouldn't have. Mariani is the worst return man I've seen in 10 years. On the rare occasions Mariani managed a decent return, it seemed there was a flag every time.

At least by eye, the 2nd half of the season was much improved. Thompson is a vastly better KR than Mariani, and there were no more huge breakdowns in coverage after the first Minnesota game. The only truly awful non-FG-related ST moment recently was the blocked punt in Tampa.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:43pm

Likewise, I really like reading your comments.

Cutler has the effect on my of being super pessimistic. I sort of view the recent old QBs as freaks. However, I should temper my statement somewhat. Even if 32 is end of his prime, he should be able to hold on for another 2 years I'd expect. I suppose he could very well age like Palmer though, complete with the cannon arm, not quite as good as you hope reading of defenses, and vague injury concerns.

I'll defer to you on Goldman. I think if the Bears can find an impact front 7 player at lot role players like Goldman, Houston will find their jobs easier.

by Roch Bear :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:13pm

The Bears OL is enough to convince me I don't know anything about NFL football. They have one good player, Slauson (RG, good not great) one (just) adequate player, Long, playing out of position at RT, and three replacement players (or pick 3 among 5 or 6). The Football Outsider measures of OL and the few games I watched agree that the Bears OL is okay in both run and pass blocking. How is this possible?

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:27pm

I think Bushrod is a good-not-great or at least adequate, and Long is/was a great guard but I agree just an adequate tackle.

I think it's like the Patriots line where you can't really point to elite players, but the whole thing functions as a unit and works together really well (at least prior to this year and even then prior to some unfortunate injuries).

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:36pm

It is so football-like, the ultimate game of interdependence, to have years and years of o-line induced frustration be ended, just as the once consistently terrific defense goes over the falls.

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:45pm

Never let it be said the universe doesn't have a sense of humor.

by Roch Bear :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:41pm

I had thought Leno played far more than Bushrod (whose back may have reduced him to 'replacement' level anyway). Regardless, I think you have identified it correctly but why the heck would a team pay in cap dollars or high draft picks when they can just pay in OL coaches (non cap) salaries. Wouldn't 5-10 million a year get the pick of the OL coaching? Are GMs stupid?

I don't like the 'they found some gems in the junk pile' but maybe they did. I really don't have a clue.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:43pm

"can't really point to elite players" is about a dozen steps too high for the Patriots line.

Can't really point to many guys who started the season on the roster?

by tuluse :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:46pm

I was referring to Belichick era as a whole, but I think I sold Mankins too low. He was most probably elite.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:19pm

The one year they got out of Brian Waters (2011) was something else. He and Mankins were definitely an elite pair of guards.

Which definitely doesn't go against your overall point that the Patriots don't tend to have elite players on the line. It's very noticeable when they do.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 8:31pm

They've never needed elite players on the line - their entire offense (post 2008 or so) is built around getting guys open quickly and getting the ball out of the QB's hands. I think the drafting of Solder high was a hedge to deal with Brady aging - and I think him and Vollmer can be close to elite at times, but neither seems to be able to stay healthy.

I think the Patriots value high floor more than high ceiling with o-line.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 8:34pm

I don't really agree. They are also able to run the ball exceedingly well - that doesn't happen unless you're o line is pretty good(at least in run blocking). I think, when healthy, they are a well coached, well oiled unit.

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 11:57am

Over the past 15 years the Pats have a reg. season record of 182-58. Despite this absurdly high winning pct (has any other team had as good a 15-yr run? 10 yr?), I'm not sure they've had (or have) any O-lineman during that period who will get a sniff at the HOF. Lots of cromulent ones who work well together, some with very good careers, but none truly elite.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 1:42pm

The Niners from 1984-1998 went 181-58-1, without an o-lineman who will get close to the HOF. Their blocking was always, on a yearly basis, above average to excellent, however.

by SandyRiver :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 5:05pm

It's eerie how close those two 15-year runs are, plus the similarity in O-line character. Thanks for posting that.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 5:17pm

Actually, the Niner run is a bit more extensive to date, the era of dominance starting in 1981, but the strike year of 1983 kinda' skews things.

by commissionerleaf :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 2:54pm

Carson Palmer for MVP:

I did a player season finder search on PFR for ANY/A > 8 and pass attempts over 400. There are 21 results, the least of which is Daunte Culpepper's magical Randy Moss fairy dust 2004.

Carson Palmer comes 8th on the list. That's above Kurt Warner's best season. The only higher ANY/A seasons are the ones you expect: Manning 2004, Manning 2013, Brady 2007, Rodgers 2011 and 2014, Marino 1984, and (okay, maybe you didn't expect this but you should have) Randall Cunningham sprinkled with Randy Moss Pixie Dust 1997.

Think ANY/A overweights INTs or sacks? He's 12th in raw YPA of 19 seasons above 8.5 with 400 attempts.

Think it's just 2015 being pass happy? Carson is the only 2015 season on either list.

Last year, with only a few games of Palmer (in which he also played well, Arizona scored 310 points. This year, they scored 489.

[The only other interesting thing I learned, although I knew this, was that Philip Rivers has been, by far, the best quarterback on mediocre teams in the recent history of the NFL.]

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:20pm

"The only other interesting thing I learned, although I knew this, was that Philip Rivers has been, by far, the best quarterback on mediocre teams in the recent history of the NFL."

Calling them mediocre is an enormously charitable statement. Awfu, defunct, moribund - those are more appropriate terms.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:11pm

Philip Rivers's career as a starter, by team record (* = playoffs):


He is 92-68 as a starter. If those are "awful", "defunct", or "moribund" teams, he's the greatest QB is the history of QBs. He might be a being from a higher plane, even.

No, I'll go with "mediocre", or maybe even "a little above average". This is really the first year the Chargers have been truly bad surrounding Rivers.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:15pm

I do think Rivers has been the guy that has concealed, for the past decade, and certainly since the idiots got rid of Marty, how truly awful the ownership is in San Diego.

by Eddo :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:38pm

That's certainly a fair judgement. Firing your coach after a 14-2 season due to a fluky playoff loss is terrible management.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:56pm

Going by wins hides an uncomfortable truth about SD. I will fully concede, the early parts of Rivers' career he was supported well. But since 2008 - 22nd Defense, 1st Pass offense, 19 Rush offense

2009 - 22nd on D, 32nd Rush offense, 1st pass dvoa

2010 - 7th on D, 19th Rush, 2nd Pass o - but this was the year the team was undone by comically and historically awful special teams

2011 - 29th on D, 12th Rush, 6th Pass o

2012 19th D, 28th Rush, 16th Pass

2013 - 32 D, 12 rush offense, 2nd Pass

2014 - 25th D, 25th Rush, 7th Pass

2015 - 28th D, 30th Rush, 8th Pass

That works out to an average of 22nd on D, 23rd in Rush, and 4th in Pass. Oh and the special teams have average a ranking of 20th in that time frame as well.

Now, I;m not assuming Rivers is the reason the Chargers have ranked highly in pass offense, but this break down does illustrate how decidedly one dimensional they are as a team. And its pretty remarkable how consistently bad their run games and defense are. So yes, I would say the organization has been awful for Rivers; especially when you factor the perpetual o line discontinuity and receiver turnover to go along with generally mediocre special teams.

by Rocco :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:59pm

I was surprised when he signed a contract extension before the season. Would have made a lot of sense for him to get out of town and move to a better team before his arm falls off.

by SFC B :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 11:26pm

I was very hopeful that the Texans would back a truck up to his door had he become available.

by MustafaSmith :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 3:43pm

Agreed. It's crazy that the likely MVP is a guy who's #12 in NY/A, #16 in Int%, and #23 in pass yards/game. Does being a run threat and leading the league in TD% really overcome what was essentially an above average passing year? When I think about facing the Panthers, the number one thing on my mind is, "Will my offense be able to move the ball, score points, and limit turnovers?"

by Joshua Northey :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 12:36am

Wins baby yeah!

I bet that if you just reordered the wins and losses for ARI and CAR, Palmer wins it.

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 1:16pm

A few dance moves wouldn't have hurt either. I think Carson should send Steve McNair's grave a batch of roses if he wins because if Cam was going to be the first african-american QB to win, Carson would have no chance.

Cam has been decent with a bad supporting cast. Carson has been historically great with a decent to good supporting cast that he has made look better than they are.

by PatsFan :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 4:40pm

Reports that Brady has a high ankle sprain.

While I'm sure he'll play on the 16th, that he'll be stuck being a statue behind that POS offensive line is going to guarantee a one-and-done. He's made some nice plays with his legs in the playoffs last year (like that 3rd down strike to Edelman in the SB) and this year. Losing that is going to hurt.

I also don't understand the plan yesterday. I'm OK with keeping the irreplaceable south of harm's way and conceding the #1 seed. I'm ok with actually trying to win the game. I don't understand exposing people to injury while NOT trying to win the game.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 5:46pm

If it's as mild as reported, he'll be fine. A Grade II sprain would mean problems for at least a couple of weeks, but a Grade I sprain will barely be affecting him if at all in two weeks.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:24pm

It's probably more important that the receivers and linemen get healthy, since they'll be facing either JJ Watt, the KC trio of Poe, Houston and Hali, or Geno Atkins. Interior pressure is usually the best way to bother Brady, and all of those teams can provide it. Of course, they all have issues on the other side of the ball.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:57pm

The Patriots line has been a sieve all year. It just didn't matter early in the year when Brady was averaging a 2.1 second release time.

Since Edelman got hurt, he's up over 3. And he's getting killed. If Edelman is back, and close to 100%, I'm not sure how much the pressure matters. If hes not, they better hope the line improves hugely.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 6:54pm

"I don't understand exposing people to injury while NOT trying to win the game."

Mike Lyoko tweeted that one of the players texted him saying that only 37 players were ok'd to play - I think that was them trying to win the game, as much as they could with the limited roster.


Julian Edelman is the key to everything - If he's back, and looks good, they win. 3rd down conversion rate has dropped from 51% to %31 since he got hurt - and Brady's release times have gone up by a full second. He was able to get around the bad line by getting rid of the ball fast - he can't do that anymore because nobody is open.

It's all health - if the guys listed as questionable are able to play(fully), they're a really good team. If they're not, they're a 6-10 quality team.

by theslothook :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 7:13pm

Its good that people see that its not just the mythical pats system that turns little white guy receivers into superstars. IN FACT, the whole qb wr narrative has been turned on his head this year with Jordy Nelson and Julian Edelman(and to a lesser extent keenan Allen).

I include myself in that list btw - who though the pats and packers would still be just fine even with those players' absences. I was very wrong.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 8:38pm

Anybody who think Edelman isn't a superstar (and Welker before him) is an idiot. These are elite, valuable players.

They're just not really Wide Receivers. I'm not really sure what they are.

Wide Receivers are there to essentially increase variance in an offense by raising the ceiling - elite guys turn 10 yard plays into 30 yard plays or longer touchdowns. Edelman does something very different - he decreases variance by raising the play floor - his job is to turn throwaways and sacks/incompletes/etc into 5-7 yard gains. He's the guy who puts the Patriots into 3rd and 3 instead of 3rd and 9.

DVOA really has no way to measure that - but it's hugely valuable.

by Andrew Potter :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 9:57pm

Isn't that exactly what DVOA was created to measure?

by duh :: Mon, 01/04/2016 - 10:49pm

Yet dvoa doesn't think much of Edelman. (Highest rank ever 22nd)

So either Edelman's performance isn't particularly valuable or dvoa doesn't measure the value of his performance well.

by Joshua Northey :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 12:38am

It is not an individual stat, those stats rankings while they can be helpful with a context are just as bad as looking at straight yardage or receptions.

by tuluse :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 1:45am

There is the other side of the coin. Edelman isn't very good, but the other Patriot's receivers are even worse. I'm not sure I believe that, but it's certainly plausible.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 5:31am

What proof do you have that raising the play floor is more valuable than raising the ceiling?

Since you mentioned getting to 3rd and 3 instead of 3rd and 9, I decided to look at how receivers did when targeted on 1st and 10 or 2nd and 10, which are commonplace down-and-distances. Edelman was targeted 121 times in 2013 and 2014, so I limited my search to receivers targeted at least 100 times, and looked at first-down conversion percentage and yards per target.


He does have the 4th-highest completion percentage, but he still lags behind most of the others in average yards gained, and is second-worst at converting first downs. He might get to 3rd-and-3, but the others get to 3rd-and-1, or convert the first down altogether. If he's elite and valuable, it appears that there are plenty of receivers who are even more so.

by theslothook :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 1:49pm

The flaw in your argument is that you are missing the context and role of the offense and receiver respectively. In both absolute and relative terms, the pats are a dink and dunk team with most of their pass attempts coming well before the sticks. This is statistically verified. Edleman is also primarily running short routes, so hes not going to be running lots of routes beyond the first down marker. The last statement i admit is anecdotal, but as far as i know, no one charts depth of route run.


One way i suppose you can do it is to subtract his yards from his yac to determine his depth of target, then compare all receivers who caught passes in similar situations and c how he does comparatively - but even this will be biased by the offense hes playing in.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 3:13pm

Welker played the exact same role in New England's offense, and he was much more efficient than Edelman has been. In 2009 and 2010, Welker caught his average pass 5.0 and 4.8 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, respectively, which is even lower than Edelman's 5.3 in 2013 and 5.7 in 2014. Here are his numbers on 1st/2nd and 10:


Despite running routes short of the sticks just like Edelman, Welker converted an extremely high number of first downs, and gained significantly more per target.

by theslothook :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 3:55pm

Welker was probably a better player, though again the offense were also better in those years. In any case, that is the right way to do it, a comparison of teammates similar to Barnwell's receiver + -. Incidentally, do yoiu not have the data for 2011 for welker as well?

by commissionerleaf :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 6:32pm

Edelman is more valuable in the Patriots offense than he would be almost anywhere else. Brady is a very good processing quarterback with a decent arm (if you don't think so, watch him in a game against Peyton anytime after 2008) but poor accuracy downfield, even on intermediate routes, and limited mobility. The Patriots offense solves this by almost never asking him to throw downfield (and when he does almost always over the middle where the total distance is shorter).

If your offense is designed to throw 5 yard passes over and over on the assumption that the defensive backs will tackle badly once or twice a quarter, or Gronk will make linebackers LOOK like defensive backs tackling badly once or twice a quarter, then Julian Edelman is the man.

The Adam Gase Denver offense was similar. The Tom Moore and Norv Turner offenses could hardly be more different.

by Perfundle :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 11:46pm

Here's the complete list from 2007 to 2015 for Welker and Edelman:


Apart from Cassel's year, Welker consistently outgained Edelman, but there did seem to be a decline in conversion rate that started before Edelman took over. 2011 was a bit of an outlier for Welker in that he was asked to go deeper than usual. His average catch was 6.7 yards beyond the line of scrimmage, which explains his very high yards per target yet low conversion rate in the chart; he dropped back to 5.4 yards at the catch the next year.

by hector :: Tue, 01/05/2016 - 10:05am

I'm sure there will be a Fahey-lead pile on if and when Cousins plays poorly in the playoffs.