Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

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» 2017 Adjusted Games Lost

Two NFC teams were hit hardest by injuries last year. One already set the AGL record in 2016, while the other has a coach with the worst AGL since 2002. Also: the Rams' incredible bill of health in L.A., and Tampa Bay's questionable injury reporting.

11 Dec 2017

Audibles at the Line: Week 14

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 tune 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 solely 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.

Indianapolis Colts 7 at Buffalo Bills 13 (OT)

Bryan Knowles: Welcome to Week 14, where a snowstorm has reduced visibility in Buffalo to about zero. With that and Nathan Peterman behind center, they might not hit 50 passing yards.

Dave Bernreuther: Is it good strategy by the Bills to be wearing all red so they can see each other? Or bad strategy because now the Colts defense is in camouflage against the rookie quarterback?

CBS forgot to change the camera angle and gave us a great live view of a Colts defensive back falling down and leaving Zay Jones wide open for what would've been an easy first down and one man to beat for a touchdown. 

Peterman threw the predetermined slant to Kelvin Benjamin anyway, and the Bills face a fourth-and-2 so important that both teams have to call a timeout, which allows enough time for another few inches of snow to fall, after which a Joe Webb Wildcat pass doesn't work. I'd criticize the play call, but really, I'm not convinced Nathan Peterman is a better quarterback than Webb.

Two drives, two fourth-and-short plays run in Buffalo. The Colts succeed, partly because nobody can see them, and partly because Frank Gore's Miami background prepared him well for these conditions. 

I'm a fan of the fact that both coaches recognize the difficulty the kicking games will have. Pagano didn't quite have the balls to go for a fourth-and-7, though, and Adam Vinatieri -- with just a slightly higher degree of difficulty than the Tuck Rule kick -- emphatically makes the point that kicking is a BAD idea, which could make this one of the most interesting games of the season. 

Shame the quarterbacks are Jacoby Brissett and Peterman...

That may have been the fastest first quarter I've ever seen. 

If ever there's an appropriate time to punt from the 32, this was it, and Rigoberto Sanchez plopped one into the snow drift at the 2, where it stuck just like a golf ball in the mud. Shockingly, this one is still scoreless. And I am more entertained by a 0-0 poorly quarterbacked game than I have ever been. 

For what it's worth, I'm not actually convinced that the snow has anything to do whatsoever with the offensive futility thus far. Vinatieri's miss is the only thing we can say for sure was the weather taking points off the board. 

Bryan Knowles: Weather Strategy Alert: The Colts attempted zero passes in the first quarter. First time all season a team has gone the first quarter without passing. The last time that happened was last year in a Carolina-Tampa Bay game, but the Panthers had just three offensive snaps in that quarter. The Colts had 20.

Vince Verhei: At the end of a first half that had consisted almost entirely of runs and short punts that hit the snow and stuck to the field like magnets, the Bills put together the first real drive of the game. LeSean McCoy got some big runs that unfolded very slowly, as he and the defenders alike were delicately trying to maintain their footing. Then the Bills remembered they had Kelvin Benjamin, and he can move the ball for them just by winning jump balls. On back-to-back plays, he had a 21-yard gain on third-and-7 and then an 8-yard touchdown, and they looked exactly the same: he just sauntered along down the right sideline and outjumped a defender for the ball. 

On the ensuing kickoff, Josh Ferguson caught the ball and was tip-toeing upfield, and as soon as the Bills coverage team got close he dived into a snowbank and disappeared. Looked like he got tackled by a Wampa. Bills lead 7-0 at halftime.

Tom Gower: I'm not sure how much to take away from that first half, but I did enjoy watching it. Fun seeing NFL players do things like burst through the hole, look to make a cut, and then fall down, almost like they had my athleticism. Yet my takeaway is that college teams would handle this environment better than the NFL. This is a time to use the quarterback in the run game, to give them better numbers and control a defender, yet here with are with Brissett's only carry a kneel and Peterman just scrambling as the Bills are surprisingly committed to the pass given conditions. We were 0-0 for quite a while, until LeSean McCoy broke off two separate long runs and Peterman hit Kelvin Benjamin (by far his preferred receiver today) first with a sideline pattern and then in the end zone. And then they kick the extra point. Hauschka hit it, but that's still not the decision I would have made given Adam Vinatieri missed badly from 33 yards earlier the game.

Dave Bernreuther: The J. Peterman Reality Tour comes to an abrupt end as he slideshead first and Antonio Morrison somehow got just as low and knocked him into next week. They didn't even give him a chance to pretend he was OK; Charles Clay and others immediately waved for the trainers.

Scott Kacsmar: Does DVOA treat this game differently with the snow? It almost feels like it should be thrown out from the season data as there's just no real predictive value to what is unfolding there today. Predictive for future snow games, sure, but it is rare we see one to this degree where literally everything is more difficult because of the elements.

Aaron Schatz: I don't have good snow adjustments in there at this point. The special teams adjustments are generic, based solely on the stadium and what week of the season it is. I'd love to make those improvements, but as I keep saying, the "to do" list is very long and management of the website/articles that pay my mortgage always come first. So for now, this game goes in DVOA. Like the thing with backup quarterbacks and opponent adjustments, people will just have to look at the Colts and Bills numbers with common sense, knowing what happened in this game.

Vince Verhei: Colts go three-and-out, and sure enough, it's Joe Webb at quarterback for the Bills. Honestly, I'm not sure that just putting him in there and running him every play like it's a single-wing isn't the worst idea, given the lead and the weather. But he hands off to Mike Tolbert, who rumbles for 25 yards, his longest run since 2015 -- and then he fumbles. Colts dig through the snow and ice and find the football (and also perhaps Captain America encased in ice, it's hard to tell). That's this whole game in a nutshell right there.

Brissett has Chester Rogers open in the end zone, but overthrows him. Rogers dives for the ball but lands out of the end zone and goes face-first into a pile of white powder like Tony Montana. (I hope you like these snow jokes because I am going to be making them long after the game is over.)

Tom Gower: Snow, no snow, the incompletion for Rogers in the end zone and subsequent fourth-and-5 incompletion stress something about Brissett's play so far: he's still operating at rookie/backup processing speed. Replays have been in short supply, but Rogers looked open enough that I'm guessing he didn't just pop open when Brissett threw the ball. Similarly, the fourth-down pass, also for Rogers, could have been thrown sooner. If it was just today, that's one thing, but that has been a consistent feature of his play.

Aaron Schatz: Wise move by the Colts to go for two in the snow rather than trying an extra point after they scored to make it 7-6. But terrible call of OPI on the two-point conversion. It looked like the Colts had scored on a read-option pass to Jack Doyle. They called an OPI on a wide receiver for blocking. But it looked like that receiver was within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage. That's legal. We're only talking about 2 yards here between the line of scrimmage and the end zone, and the blocking receiver certainly was not in the end zone.

So now the Colts are stuck trying a 43-yard extra point in the snow instead of a 12-yard two-point conversion.

Bryan Knowles: I was positive that extra point was going to go bad, but Vinatieri plays the wind, hooking the ball back through the uprights for a tie game!

This is going to end up as a tie with the new overtime rules, isn't it? I'm going to have to go back and check all my scenarios for ties, aren't I? Sassafrassa phantom pass interference...

Vince Verhei: This game keeps getting funnier. Colts fake the ball to Frank Gore and run a bootleg to the right. Gore steps up to block someone, but there's nobody there, so he tries to plant and reverse field. This results in Gore spinning and falling in multiple directions at once, like Clark Griswold stepping on planks in his attic.

The drive is a success though, as Brissett finds Jack Doyle in the end zone for a touchdown. But the comedy is still going. The Colts go for two, because nobody wants this game to go to overtime. They call timeout to call a play, which is odd. They get the conversion, but are called for offensive pass interference. With the penalty, they are forced to kick, but in this weather, with the penalty, that's no sure thing either. So they call timeout again so their guys have time to kick snow away from where Adam Vinatieri will be kicking. There are random sideline geeks out there trying to help, but the refs chase them away. Shouldn't that be a penalty for too many men on the field? Finally Vinatieri kicks, and it's clearly going to miss to the right, but the wind blows it back down the middle. So we are tied at seven and overtime looms.

Dave Bernreuther: Somehow, some way, the Colts march down the field and, inside the two-minute warning, a nicely designed play springs Jack Doyle for a touchdown. 

Pagano being Pagano, I expected a PAT attempt, and was pleasantly surprised to see them go for two ... and it's Jack Doyle again! Aggressiveness is rewarded, and we all rejoice!

It's the Colts, though. So there was a flag for OPI. (I didn't see it.) And so, in a foot of snow, they need a 43-yard PAT to tie ... and Vinatieri pushes it several yards wide right. 

But that was just to add drama, of course. The wind brought it back. 7-7... 

And I'm going to need a few minutes to recap what happened next.

Bryan Knowles: Webb, still in at quarterback, throws an interception. Indianapolis then decides, heck, let's just kick another field goal and get out of here -- but Vinatieri misses it! 

This game matters! For the Bills, for the Patriots, for the Steelers ... and it's just a massive comedy of errors.

Vince Verhei: Joe Webb throws an interception, and here's Vinatieri to try a game-winner. Remind me, has Vinatieri ever made a kick in the snow? But he's wide left on this one, and yes, we are going to overtime.

Scott Kacsmar: Buffalo should probably be going for the win rather than settling for a tie in overtime, thinking that this can still be a wild-card season. Interested to see how they attack this fourth-and-1 at the Indy 43. I'd run the ball for sure.

Vince Verhei: Buffalo's decision to punt on fourth-and-1 in Colts territory on the first drive in overtime might be the funniest thing yet. On the plus side, Colton Schmidt's punt was a beauty, pinning the Colts at their own 10. Next score wins, but I'm betting we end with a tie.

Dave Bernreuther: Early in the game it seemed that neither coach trusted the kicking game. Which was a 100 percent rational and correct decision. 

In the end game, though? Back to normal. The Colts give up, post-pick, and deliberately try to kick from the same 43-yard point as before, which Vinatieri misses (which did actually surprise me). Shortly after, the Bills punt on fourth-and-1 (!), and honestly, a tie would be the most fitting ending to this game. But even that's a letdown, as a 0-0 tie would be even more appropriate. And hilarious. 

Vince Verhei: Almost the same time as Green Bay wins in overtime, the Bills have a third-and-4 at the 21 and everyone's waiting to see if Steven Hauschka can win it -- but McCoy renders that irrelevant, breaking a tackle in the middle of the field and going 21 yards for a game-winner. Bills and Joe Webb are now 7-6 and very much alive in the playoff race.

Dave Bernreuther: Ohh, I'm exhausted. I've been on this field a thousand times. It's never looked so strange. The faces ... so cold. In the stands, a snowman has water bottle hands, and a child is crying. Fatherless. A bastard child, perhaps. 

My back aches. My heart aches. But my feet ... my feet are resilient! Thank god I took off my cleats and put on my Himalayan (snow) shoes!"

Minnesota Vikings 24 at Carolina Panthers 31

Aaron Schatz: Remember my complaints last week that the Panthers offense was not creative enough? After a Case Keenum deep interception/arm-punt, the Panthers just got a 60-yard touchdown on third-and-1 by using an unbalanced line AND a sixth lineman. There were FOUR offensive linemen to the right of the center. I've never seen anything like it.

Charles has a video of it:

Bryan Knowles: Even more impressive, that run came against the Vikings run D. They hadn't allowed a run of 30 or more yards this season, one of only three teams who could boast that. Against a defense that doesn't give up big plays, sometimes you have to get creative. That was a thing of beauty.

I am very impressed with how well Carolina is moving the ball on the ground against Minnesota. They're being creative with play calling and formations, but it all ends up with straight power-on-power, and Carolina's winning, over and over at the point of attack. That being said, the Panthers should never, ever, ever punt on fourth-and-inches; not with Cam Newton behind center. Carolina's defense forced a three-and-out immediately after, so no harm, no foul, but aaargh.

Aaron Schatz: I feel like the Panthers' strategy in this game was that if they just stuffed the hell out of the run, there was no way that Case Keenum could continue to convert third downs at the rate he has been converting them. That was good when Latavius Murray started with four carries for 5 yards. Not as good with Jerick McKinnon in the second quarter gaining 43 yards on six carries. What's interesting is that the Vikings actually struggle significantly on third-and-long this year. They're second in DVOA on third-and-short, fifth on third-and-medium, but 29th on third-and-long (7-plus yards to go).

Another element of the Carolina-Minnesota game has been a good demonstration of the improvement of the Carolina cornerbacks this season. James Bradberry in particular looks good, but also Darryl Worley. Adam Thielen only has caught three of eight targets so far, and he, Stefon Diggs, and Laquon Treadwell have combined for just 72 yards.

As good as the Vikings defense is, it would be a lot better if Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander developed and lived up to their draft positions.

Not the best day for Case Keenum here. Just threw his second pick of the day, one of those passes that shows how difficult it is to code binary reasons for incomplete passes. Keenum threw the ball too high to Stefon Diggs on what looked to be a wide receiver screen, but Diggs did have his hands on it and really should have caught it. Instead, it bounced up in the air and right into the hands of Bradberry. The Vikings were almost at the red zone, but now Carolina gets the ball back with a 24-13 lead and 8:48 left.

Aaron Schatz: The Cam Newton pick is another one that matches that second Keenum pick: he overthrew Christian McCaffrey, and while it was off his hands too, the ball was thrown even higher than the one to Diggs. That one required a jump and a high catch, and McCaffrey couldn't make a great play, and boing, into Andrew Sendejo's hands.

Bryan Knowles: Great play by Adam Thielen to keep this thing a contest. 52-yard touchdown, breaking tackles along the way. That was exactly the kind of play you needed when you've been sputtering on offense. They hit the two-point conversion, and all of a sudden, we have a field goal game in one of the biggest games of the week. Get your popcorn ready.

Vince Verhei: We all knew Keenum had been playing over his head. He came into the weekend leading all quarterbacks in passing and rushing DVOA. But nobody really thought he was that good, and today the Panthers have made him pay for the mistakes he has gotten away with against other teams. 

But we also knew, I think, that the rest of the Vikings roster was every bit as good as their record. Andrew Sendejo intercepts Cam Newton and returns it inside the 10, setting up a field goal. Keenum has thrown two picks and taken five sacks, but the rest of the team is really carrying him today.

Rob Weintraub: Got the feeling when Carolina was held to three after the Keenum fumble the Vikes would get new life. Sure enough, the game is 24-24 with three to play.

But Cam goes 62 yards on a zone-read, made Sendejo look foolish. Inside the ten with two minutes left.

Andrew Potter: Carolina has been trying all day to get Newton going on the ground. He has been stymied all day: seven carries for 13 yards. Options, draws, scrambles, nothing has worked ... until now. A read-option sees Newton step inside left tackle and break upfield into masses of space, almost as much as Jonathan Stewart found on his touchdown earlier. Newton is eventually caught, 62 yards later, and the Panthers are in a great position to retake the lead in another superb potential NFC playoff preview.

Rob Weintraub: Stewart scores after the long Cam run, and Carolina stops the Vikes in four plays to hang on for the tough win and first-place tie. They are bunched up like menhaden (obscure marine reference) in the NFC South!

San Francisco 49ers 26 at Houston Texans 16

Derrik Klassen: Every time I watch the 49ers, it becomes more and more apparent that Reuben Foster is a special talent. He just ruined an iso play the Texans tried to run. Rookie linebackers should not be able to trigger and take on blocks the way he does. It is going to be fun to see that defense be built around him.

Bryan Knowles: Jadeveon Clowney normally lines up off of left tackle, but not today. With Trent Brown back out with his shoulder injury (he played through it last week, but it tightened up this week), Clowney has moved to line up against Zane Beadles on the right most frequently. That is the textbook definition of a "mismatch" there, and helped lead to a Jimmy Garoppolo interception: a hurried throw into double coverage with an additional side of miscommunication between quarterback and receiver. Something to watch as things go on, as I'm not sure any of the 49ers' backup linemen can handle Clowney.

Derrik Klassen: Scary sight for Tom Savage on Houston's last drive. After getting popped by Elvis Dumervil, Savage's arms sort of locked up and started shaking a little bit. Looks like they sent him off into concussion protocol.

Bryan Knowles: Something to consider as he approaches free agency: Carlos Hyde can't catch. The 49ers had a sure-fire touchdown where Hyde got behind the defense, Garoppolo threw a perfectly thrown ball -- and Hyde just lost track of it entirely, staring up at the roof as the ball thudded to the turf behind him. As a runner, I still believe Hyde is underrated; he has done some tremendous things over the years behind some very, very poor offensive lines. But there's a reason he has the third-lowest receieving DYAR among running backs. He's also had five out-and-out drops this year, which no es bueno, el Guapo. Shanahan uses his running backs fairly heavily in the passing game, and Hyde really isn't the right guy for that.

That being said, he just scored a touchdown on one of those tremendous "my offensive line gives me nothing, so I'm just going to get these yards out of sheer force of will" runs, so yeah. His contract is a really tough call this offseason!

Also, concussion protocol alert! After that scary hit, the Texans allowed Savage to come out on the field for another drive; a three-and-out. But now, they've pulled him, bringing in T.J. Yates. No new injury happened on the last drive, so this seems a lot like a delayed concussion protocol. Um, what exactly are they doing on the sideline in Houston?

Vince Verhei: Chris Nowinski weighs in on the Savage hit (includes the video, which is quite disturbing).

Bryan Knowles: Speaking of mismatches: DeAndre Hopkins on, well, anyone. I know the Houston offense is injury-riddled but this is ridiculous. He has 144 yards; the rest of the Texans have 84. He has also scored both of Houston's touchdowns. The 49ere have tried every healthy corner on him at one point or another; they've put safety help on him; they've actively held him a couple times (Dontae Johnson, professional flag magnet). Nothing seems to work. The hook route is open every. Single. Time. 16-13, Houston, and about as impressive of a one-man show as you're ever going to see.

If the 49ers could get anything going in the red zone, they might actually be a half-decent team. They've ended up in the red zone seven times since Garoppolo took over as a starter; they have kicked six field goals. They look on pace to settle for another field goal on trip No. 8 as penalties push them back to the 25, but Garoppolo stands in the pocket, absorbs a shot to the chin, and throws a laser.  Not the first time today he's delivered a great pass when taking a shot, which tells me A) C.J. Beathard was responsible for a significant chunk of those sacks in the middle stretch of the season, and B) the 49ers need to draft, like, eight offensive linemen.

Rivers McCown: It's incredible that T.J. Yates is on an NFL roster in 2017. 

My main takeaways from this game are as follows:

1) DeAndre Hopkins can only be successfully taken out of a game by Brock Osweiler.

2) Cornerback Kevin Johnson has been a JAG this year after injuries and was roasted by the 49ers on both penalties and catches.

3 The Savage injury was scary and it's ridiculous that none of the neurological indies or team officials saw and understood that. His next two throws while obviously concussed were horrendous.

4) Jimmy G was under a ton of pressure today. I'm not sure if that says more about him holding the ball or about the 49ers offensive line, because the Houston pass rush isn't great at this point. But he looked better under the pressure than I ever thought he'd look when he was coming out, and I'm beginning to buy into the idea that he may make the 49ers look smart. 

5) Seriously, this team had Savage concussed (or near it) last week, went into this game with two quarterbacks on the roster, and the other one was T.J. YATES.

Oakland Raiders 15 at Kansas City Chiefs 26

Vince Verhei: And now, fun with quarterback statlines. Can you identify these quarterbacks by their first-half numbers today?

  • QB1: 1-of-2 for 11 yards. 
  • QB2: 3-of-8 for 38 yards and a touchdown.
  • QB3: 5-of-12 for 31 yards with an interception and a sack. 

QB1 is Jacoby Brissett, a backup quarterback playing in a once-a-decade blizzard. QB2 is Nathan Peterman, also a backup quarterback, also playing in a once-a-decade blizzard. QB3 is Derek Carr, one of the league's highest-paid quarterbacks, on a clear sunny day in Kansas City, in a game his team desperately needs to win to stay alive in the playoff race.

Derrik Klassen: Oakland's offensive approach to this game is downright terrible. Todd Downing is calling a flurry of quick passes against a Chiefs defense that is depleted (Marcus Peters is out) and just not playing well as of late. Going to constant short passes without any other threat plays perfectly into Kansas City's hands. One would think Downing would try to assert the running game and work the passing game down the field, but alas. 

Green Bay Packers 27 at Cleveland Browns 21 (OT)

Vince Verhei: The most important decision for John Dorsey, of course, is quarterback -- DeShone Kizer has improved in recent weeks, but not so much that you pass on a Baker Mayfield or whoever at quarterback. But the most intriguing decision might be what to do with Josh Gordon. He's got three catches for 69 yards and a touchdown today, after four catches for 85 yards last week, after missing the better part of three years before that. He's still in the top ten for all-time yards per game. This is the most physically talented receiver the league has seen since peak Randy Moss. As Aaron noted last week, a Gordon-Corey Coleman-David Njoku trio would be one of the league's better WR/WR/TE sets in the NFL. But Gordon is a restricted free agent at the end of the year, and you've got to be afraid he'll get suspended again if he just mows grass or pulls a weed or cooks in a pot. For all their cap space, you can't possibly risk more than a two-year deal, can you?

Rob Weintraub: If you thought the Browns were going to ease into that first win, yeah, no. They cough up a 14-point lead, as Brett Hundley throws a short touchdown pass with under 20 seconds left. Overtime, but no snow, so who cares?

And Kizer gets picked in overtime after a playground attempt at a big play. In true Manziellian fashion, Green Bay gets it on a deflection. Next score wins, with Green Bay on the Browns 41.

Vince Verhei: Oh, Browns. They get a two-touchdown lead for the first time in the Hue Jackson era, so of course the Packers rally to force overtime. Three snaps into the extra period, Kizer scrambles on third-and-2, and makes a terrible decision to throw a pass while running backwards, falling down, under pressure. The result is a quasi-Hail Mary that comes down in the middle of the field about 10 yards past the line of scrimmage. A half-dozen Browns and Packers jump for the ball, and Josh Jones reels in the interception to set Green Bay up with a short field, needing a field goal to win now.

Rob Weintraub: Pack run the bubble screen to Davante Adams and he takes it in for the victory. Green Bay still alive and Browns still winless.

Carl Yedor: Kizer's arm got hit as he threw the ball up, but that doesn't justify the decision to chuck it up there. The Packers will take it though. The return of Aaron Rodgers looms, and the rest of the NFC playoff contenders are nervously looking over their shoulders.

Rob Weintraub: Nice job to pull that one out by Green Bay but color me skeptical on the idea that Aaron Rodgers is going to magically get them into the postseason -- especially because everyone is anticipating it now. Assuming no total collapse by the Vikes (and they get the Bengals at home so consider that W eaten) they need a wild card. Atlanta holds tiebreaker on them, so the Falcons need to lose twice out of Buccaneers away, Panthers home, Saints away. Possible, but I doubt it. The Packers really needed the Saints to win Thursday, and the Vikings to win today. Ironically by losing Minnesota may have screwed their biggest rivals.

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, a team that nearly loses to the Browns isn't one injury replacement from being a powerhouse, and they essentially need to go undefeated to make the postseason. Panthers, Vikings, Lions all in a row? Rodgers is great, but that's a heck of an ask from that defense.

Rivers McCown: If the Packers do make the playoffs, they should vote a share to Gregg Williams.

Chicago Bears 33 at Cincinnati Bengals 7

Rob Weintraub: Cincinnati passed on Reuben Foster because he was an injury risk, so they took a guy who was already injured and got hurt twice more to miss the season.

They miss someone, anyone with speed on defense today. Five starters are out and they are in major post-Steelers "tank the season, get everybody fired" mode.

Vince Verhei: Which means Marvin Lewis will probably get an extension.

Rob Weintraub: I think this time he's finally gone, though a place in the front office isn't out of the question.

I write a weekly piece for Cincinnati magazine about the Bengals. This week I wrote about the second-half futility under Marvin Lewis. And so what happens today? They give up 21 unanswered. Now being outscored 136-71 in the second stanza this year.

A.J. McCarron is in now, for what it's worth.

Dallas Cowboys 30 at New York Giants 10

Carl Yedor: After an absolute slog of a second half at MetLife stadium, Dak Prescott hits Cole Beasley on a short pass to convert on third-and-2 ... which Beasley then turns into a 54-yard gain. Prescott then hits Jason Witten for a 20-yard touchdown on the next play. Just like that. Normally I don't think the Cowboys would be confident with a 7-point lead and 7:30 to go, but the Giants have been struggling to move the ball in a big way. Eli Manning is at 5.4 yards per attempt as I type this, and the running backs have averaged barely more than 3 yards per carry today.

And then, to put a bow on it, Dallas has another third-and-short. Prescott hits Rod Smith underneath. Smith then takes it all the way for an 81-yard score. Barring a miracle, this one's over. Dallas would not have been mathematically eliminated with a loss, but they would have had quite the mountain to climb.

Seattle Seahawks 24 at Jacksonville Jaguars 30

Vince Verhei: Jaguars get the ball first, but go three-and-out on three straight passing plays (one bad throw by Blake Bortles, two good tackles by Byron Maxwell). Seahawks' first play is a completion to Paul Richardson for 3 yards, but Jacksonville is ... challenging? What? It's a 3-yard gain on the first play of the game! This is a huge risk with little reward! They win the challenge, so I guess no harm, no foul, but Seattle picks up the ensuing third-down conversion anyway, so it didn't matter in the long run.

Carl Yedor: For a second there I thought maybe they were going to try to argue that the defender picked the ball off somehow? Maybe? But no, Marrone just really wanted those 3 yards.

Vince Verhei: Germain Ifedi is called for holding, but he gets bailed out when Jalen Ramsey commits DPI on the play, so it's offsetting penalties. But Ifedi just can't stand to let that go, so he says something to the ref, and he gets flagged for "taunting the official." This leads to a third down with more than 20 yards to go, which obviously leads to a punt. That's a league-high 13 accepted penalties for Ifedi; nobody else had double-digits coming into the weekend according to NFLPenalties.com.

Jaguars last two drives have started with bad field position, moved into Seattle territory, then stalled. The first time, Josh Lambo kicked a 38-yard field goal. But the second one, Jacksonville ... punted? On fourth-and-3? From the Seattle 37? I know you can trust your defense and play field position there, and the punt was downed at the 9, but man that's a scaredy-cat call.

Carl Yedor: We've reached halftime in Jacksonville and the Jaguars lead 3-0. Seattle had a promising drive going at the end of the half, but Blair Walsh missed a 38-yard field goal, so Jacksonville retains the lead as opposed to being tied. The early part of that drive looked like a few years ago with four runs to Mike Davis accounting for most of the yards to start the drive. Walsh would probably be in danger of losing his job if not for the fact that the Seahawks are so up against the cap that they are barely going to be able to pay out all the per-game roster bonuses they will owe. Walsh's first season in Seattle will likely be his last.

Vince Verhei: Jaguars up 3-0 at halftime in a game that has largely gone like we expected it would: seven punts, one Jalen Ramsey deep-ball interception that may as well have been a punt, and one field goal attempt for each team (Lambo hit for Jacksonville, Blair Walsh missed for Seattle). Most shocking thing has been how great Seattle's offensive line has played against Jacksonville's front. They're almost up to 100 yards already, and it's not just Russell Wilson scrambles -- Mike Davis has 56 yards on nine carries. Of course, the Jaguars' pass defense has been much better than their rush defense. But then, officially, they have no sacks (I think one was wiped out on a penalty) and only one quarterback hit. Those numbers match with what I'm seeing -- I don't recall Wilson having as much time in the pocket all year as he has today. Now, it hasn't mattered, because Jacksonville's secondary is every bit as good as their front and has completely smothered Seattle's receivers. No targets for Jimmy Graham today, and Doug Baldwin's only target was the Ramsey interception. Seattle has not completed a pass for more than 7 yards yet. Some of their biggest plays have actually been penalties -- Dante Fowler has twice been called for hands to the face on Ifedi.

Not as much to say about Jacksonville's offense. On any given play they have 10 average or better players, but the 11th is the quarterback, and he's so bad. He has badly missed on four or five easy short throws. Seattle's defense continues to play well without Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor. Jacksonville is clearly picking on Byron Maxwell, and I can't fault them for that strategy, but so far he has more than held his own, giving up no big plays and usually forcing short completions.

Seattle's first drive of the second half ends on another deep-ball interception, this time by A.J. Bouye in coverage on Graham. Graham tacks on a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness for good measure. And it leads to a touchdown when Dede Westbrook fakes a block on a fake wide receiver screen and cuts to the corner of the end zone, where he's wide open for the score. Daryl Johnston was weirdly saying it was a tough throw because there were three defenders in the area, but all three defenders were at least two steps behind Westbrook. It really wasn't a tough throw. I think, by the way, Maxwell was the primary defender on Westbrook in coverage again, but this was more about play design than any specific matchup. 

Well this turned around quickly. Wilson makes an amazing pass on a deep crosser to Baldwin, who catches it for a gain of 43 to set up a short Walsh field goal. Terence Garvin makes a big hit on Corey Grant on the ensuing kickoff, knocking the ball free, and the Seahawks come out of the pile with it. Two plays later, Wilson finds Baldwin again, beating Barry Church on a corner route for a 26-yard touchdown, and we're all tied at 10. Officially, ten points in 59 seconds for Seattle.

Correction -- looked like on Baldwin's touchdown, the coverage error was by the linebackers on that side of the field, not on Church. 

Carl Yedor: A barn-burner has broken out. The Jaguars scored on the short field after the Bouye pick, but Seattle moved downfield quickly, getting a field goal from Walsh to make it 10-3. Then, Jacksonville fumbles the ensuing kickoff, which Seattle recovers. Two plays later, Wilson finds Baldwin for the touchdown. It felt like the Seahawks were going to need a big play from their defense if they were going to score a touchdown today, but the special teams came up with the big play.

Before I can finish typing this message, the Jags score on a 75-yard touchdown after a touchback. It's a shootout!

Vince Verhei: And then on first down after the kickoff, Seahawks lose coverage on Keelan Cole. A bad pass still would have been completed, but Bortles made a perfect throw and it's a 75-yard touchdown. So that's 17 points between the two teams in the last 1:12 of game time.

Rivers McCown: I'm gonna go ahead and assume that Bobby Wagner's hamstring injury -- the one that kept him out of both of the last two touchdown plays the Jaguars have scored -- may be a factor.

Vince Verhei: More fireworks. Jon Ryan's punt is short, but it takes an easy hop right to Jaydon Mickens, who returns it 72 yards down to the 1. Leonard Fournette plunges in on the next play. So that's 24 combined points scored in less than three minutes of game time.

Whatever halftime adjustments Jacksonville made to shut down the run, they worked. Seahawks can't get anything going on the ground. So we get another deperate arm-punt interception for Wilson, this one by Bouye. Wilson keeps throwing up jump balls and Jags defenders are like, hey, free football. Just the fourth three-interception game of Wilson's career, including the playoffs. 

So Jacksonville has the ball at the end of the third quarter, up 24-10, with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright both out of the game for Seattle. At this point it's going to take a comeback for the ages to pull this out.

Carl Yedor: Looks like Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright both going down was the collective straw that broke the camel's back for the Seattle defense. Jacksonville's drives since the one where Wagner went down:

  • TD (Wagner injured mid-drive)
  • Kickoff fumbled away (so no offensive drive)
  • TD (one play)
  • TD (one play, after big punt return)
  • FG

Vince Verhei: Wilson hits Paul Richardson for a 61-yard touchdown. That's Wilson's 16th fourth-quarter touchdown pass this year, already a record. Looks to be for naught through, because Jacksonville kills five-plus minutes on a field goal drive to go up 30-17. At one point Bortles converted a third-and-3 dropping a pass over Westbrook's shoulder down the sideline. That was a more impressive throw than his big touchdown earlier, because Maxwell had great coverage on the play. Bortles' margin for error was nil. Bortles has been much better in the second half -- I remember only one throw he should have made but missed, where he started to scramble but changed his mind at the last second. 

Oh hey, there's Wilson-to-Tyler Lockett for a 74-yard touchdown. Seahawks are about to kick off down 30-24 with 3:42 to go.

Jacksonville goes three-and-out. Bortles nearly throws a pick-six to Maxwell. Jacksonville runs a give-up draw on third-and-long to punt the ball to back to Russell Wilson. Seahawks down six with 2:39 to go. I am shaking. 

A third-and-1 sack gave Seattle a fourth-and-9, outside the two-minute warning, with two timeouts. They went for it, and Wilson's pass to Baldwin was incomplete. I think they panicked there. Even after their failure to go for it, they still have a chance to use their timeouts and get one more possession. Had they punted, they could have forced another possession, and good field position. Felt like they came back so quickly, they didn't realize just how much time they still had. 

Rob Weintraub: In fairness, the Jags got away with a blatant hold on Richardson on that fourth down, which should have given Seattle a fresh set of downs.

Vince Verhei: Fournette runs for 13 yards on third-and-11. Game over. Fights break out as the Jaguars are trying to kneel out the clock. Everyone risking suspension here in the middle of a playoff race. 

I believe there were five personal fouls just now. One on the Jaguars and four on Seattle. One of those was on Pete Carroll for running onto the field and telling his guys to stop committing personal fouls. 

Quinton Jefferson was ejected and leaving the field and somebody threw a drink at him. So he went over to confront the fans. This resulted in more drinks being thrown at him, which resulted in Jefferson trying to climb into the bleachers and kill someone. He was eventually restrained. But, uh, yeah. That was all no good and I'm sure there will be more punishment to come. 

So, Seahawks lose, Panthers win, Falcons win, Packers win, Lions win. Rams are losing late, but if they can make a miracle comeback, it will be a nuclear bomb for Seattle's playoff chances.

Philadelphia Eagles 43 at Los Angeles Rams 35

Dave Bernreuther: I want to say that Carson Wentz really underthrew that touchdown to Trey Burton. Had the linebacker turned around, that would have been an easy pick. 

Instead, they go up 14-7 on two touchdowns to tight ends not named Zach Ertz. I won't lie; I expected his absence to slow Wentz's decision-making and hurt them a lot today. 

Bryan Knowles: The Eagles have done a very good job dealing with the Rams' pass rush so far. The tackles are holding up well, and when pressure does get through, Wentz is slippery enough to get out of it. I have been impressed.

Aaron Schatz: Big injury in the Rams-Eagles game, as Andrew Whitworth rolled his ankle and is out for the Rams. They are saying he may come back in the second half, but it seems unlikely.

Eagles offensive line is doing a good job here of moving Aaron Donald back behind Carson Wentz in the pocket.

Bryan Knowles: If Sean McVay has one issue with his play calling so far (this season, not just this game), it's occasionally ... forgetting that the run game exists. Todd Gurley had just five carries in the first half. They're for 44 yards, though that's obviously somewhat inflated by the 30-yard run he had on Los Angeles' second play from scrimmage. That run, and the 64-yard scamper by Cooper Kupp, are pretty much the extent of the Rams' offense today; they're going to have to try to generate something if they're going to get back into this one. I'd try pounding the ball with Gurley some, but so far, nothing much is coming out of L.A.'s offense.

The Eagles continue to do a very good job dealing with the Rams' pressure. And when pressure does come, Wentz steps up and finds someone; ever since the opening drive interception, he has been lights out. There have been points, this season, where his play hasn't lived up to the hype around him. But in this, the biggest game of the year so far for Philly, he's been as advertised.

The Eagles have terrible tiebreakers (a head-to-head loss to Seattle, a strength of victory under .380, etc.), so, more so than Minnesota or Los Angeles or New Orleans, they need to rack up wins to get a high seed, especially against quality competition like Los Angeles. So far, so good...

Aaron Schatz: The Rams have good special teams in every area. Have for years now, even when everything else sucked. They just blocked a Donnie Jones punt and walked it in for a touchdown. It was a great play design; they overloaded the left side of the Eagles line and essentially forced Corey Clement on the left end to choose to block either backup safety Blake Countess or "the other" Mike Thomas. Clement sort of ends up with neither, which lets Thomas block the punt and Countess pick it up untouched to march it in for the score. I've thought in the past about trying to get a former special teams coordinator to write an occasional article for us on special teams design and play, somewhat similar to Ben Muth's column on the offensive line. This is the kind of play that's meant for. We don't think a lot about special teams design but it matters and often it's the reason for big plays like this. Big, game-changing plays, because now the Rams have a 28-24 lead despite essentially being outplayed all afternoon by Carson Wentz and the Eagles offense.

Strong decision for the Eagles to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the 2 with 2:28 left in the third quarter. Nobody was open. NOBODY. Wentz had plenty of time. And he somehow threaded it Alshon Jeffery, who caught the ball with his fingertips. Heckuva play.

Vince Verhei: Alshon Jeffery's fingertip grab on a fourth-and-goal touchdown is going to get all the attention, but check out Carson Wentz's poise on the play. He just stands there as lions and tigers and bears race around him, and waits and delivers the ball.

Rob Weintraub: Wentz took a nasty shot on a scramble for 6 that was called back earlier in the Jeffery touchdown drive. At first it looked like a sure knee injury, but he popped back up and stayed in. Has since left for the locker room, though.

Rivers McCown: They just downgraded Wentz to out with a knee injury. Really hope this isn't the latest cherry on our year of horrific injuries to the NFL's funnest players.

Rob Weintraub: The injuries continue to stack up around the NFC, except in Atlanta -- which is a big part of what happened last year when they stayed healthy and got hot while the rest of the conference was playing shorthanded (and the Cowboys blew it). The NFC is certainly deeper this season, but don't count the Falcons out in the big picture.

Aaron Schatz: Chris Long just strip-sacked Jared Goff and gave the Eagles the ball already on the Rams' side of the field. He leads the Eagles in hurries this year, despite playing a part-time role.

Officials just called No. 50 on the Rams, Samson Ebukam, for leverage on a field goal attempt by the Eagles. It didn't look like he did anything wrong. Maybe they meant to call it on Aaron Donald? But FOX went to Mike Pereira and Pereira at least didn't think there was any leverage on the play. So they took a 54-yard field goal off the board, the offense went 6 yards (plus 15 from the penalty), and Elliott came back in to try a 33-yard field goal. He hit that one too. 37-35 Eagles, 3:45 left.

Bryan Knowles: Philadelphia, now with Foles in for the injured Wentz, kicks the go-ahead field goal ... but the refs call leverage, which is a first down and the Eagles take the points off the board.

I didn't see anything worth a penalty there, but it's entirely possible I missed something in the scrum. Ends up costing the Rams just two minutes as they hold Philly to another field goal.

Popcorn game, this one.

Adam Schefter is reporting on twitter that the Eagles fear Carson Wentz has torn his ACL.

Andrew Potter: Said this on Twitter, but if they think it's an ACL tear, it's almost guaranteed to be an ACL tear. The on-field exams for ACL injuries are close to 100 percent accurate, and the only recent example I can think of where it was misdiagnosed was Jeremy Maclin in January 2015. In Maclin's case, this was probably due to residual looseness in his knee from his previous ACL tears; Wentz does not have a similar history. We'll hear a thing or two about MRI scans today and tomorrow, but they almost always confirm the injury, and are usually done to check for additional damage. This late in the year, Wentz will probably miss part of the offseason and maybe begin next year on PUP. Terrible, terrible blow.

Aaron Schatz: Nick Foles is a good backup. He just whipped a laser to Jeffrey to convert a third down and basically end the game. He's no Wentz, but it's not absurd to think he could pull a Jeff Hostetler if that defense steps up. 

Bryan Knowles: No one in Philly is thinking about this with Wentz hurt, but their win makes them the first team to clinch a playoff berth. And yeah, Aaron's spot on the money -- Foles might be the best backup any of the top contenders have (the big question mark behind the now-healthy Teddy Bridgewater not withstanding). He's got the biggest Hostetler potential in him. Still, what a blow.

Tom Gower: Not only did Foles hit the pass, Doug Pederson trusted him enough to try to win the game by throwing the ball. Not every coach would do that with a backup quarterback who hadn't played significant action this year before that quarter.

Rob Weintraub: Looking back at the touchdown Wentz threw after the injury, it's clear he's hurt. What I took to be him standing tall in the pocket despite the rush was actually a totally straight, stiff front leg. The throw was in the area but well low -- the great catch bailed him out.

What a shame for my main man from BisonLand.

Bryan Knowles: The other thing that could help Foles? The Eagles essentially have locked up home-field advantage today, thanks to the losses this week by Minnesota and New Orleans. In terms of tiebreakers, the Eagles now go from dead last to first -- they have the head-to-head win over the Rams, of course, but also just clinched the common games tiebreaker against Minnesota and New Orleans. Someone's going to have to actually pass them to get the Eagles out of Philadelphia now, and with games against the Giants, Raiders, and Cowboys left, it seems like the perfect schedule to get Foles up to full speed.

Obviously, never a good thing when your budding superstar tears his ACL, but the Eagles have about as perfect a situation as they could hope for.

Rob Weintraub: Meanwhile, I suppose that sews up the MVP for Tom Brady? Assuming he doesn't go down, too?

Bryan Knowles: Knock on wood.

Tennessee Titans 7 at Arizona Cardinals 12

Rivers McCown: Against a defense that allowed 350 passing yards to Tom Savage last week, Blaine Gabbert has taken four sacks and thrown for 52 yards as we hit the two-minute warning. 

It certainly seems as if he is not good. But hey, maybe all empirical evidence on the subject is wrong. Let's give him three more starts just to be sure.

Tom Gower: Titans up 7-0 at the half. The Titans look like themselves: a mostly ineffective run game, a pass game that makes me want to tear my hair out, and a mix of some really good throws by Marcus Mariota and some I'd like to see him do better on. Arizona doesn't have a sustaining run game, and Blaine Gabbert hasn't been as good as he was the past two weeks (he was actually OK after a bad start last week). Titans touchdown came on a drive that started at midfield after a short Andy Lee punt. Gabbert took four sacks in the first half, because that's part of what he is now (and no, the line doesn't give him forever to throw). But like Rivers said, vaguely competent quarterbacks can throw against this defense.

Rivers McCown: Potential swing play here as the Titans run a fake punt at their own 35, and get it. Arizona challenges. A spot challenge. And Arians actually wins it as the ball comes up short of the line to gain on review. So Arizona gets a short field in a 7-3 game after that gamble backfires. 

A shanked Phil Dawson field goal from 40 kept Tennessee in the lead until the fourth quarter, but Arizona drove down the field from their own 15 and kicked the field goal to take the lead with about six minutes to go.

To be clear, some of Tennessee's problems today are about Taylor Lewan being out. But they have been utterly unable to move the football. Arizona has no offense beyond reacting to blitzes with good checkdowns. They're winning this game almost completely as a reactive thing. 

Rob Weintraub: Even by Mariota standards his latest pick was brutal --failing to clear the dropping linebacker, Josh Bynes, he throws it right at him. A late hit on the return sets up the Cards for more points.

Last chance for Tennessee, and the usually reliable Delanie Walker has back-to-back passes knocked free -- one was kicked loose by Brandon Williams. Fourth-down goes incomplete as well, and an ugly, perhaps important loss for the Titans in the desert is in the books.

Tom Gower: The Titans had been living on the brief stretches of every game their offense was awesome, to cover up the larger stretches of every game the offense was horrible. Today, they didn't get those stretches and therefore ended up with just seven points. They made it to Arizona territory two other times on 12 possessions, one of them a time-compressed drive at the end of the first half and the other ended by Marcus Mariota's first bad interception, which came on a miscommunication with Rishard Matthews (per Mike Mularkey postgame, Matthews ran the wrong route). His second interception was on him, a missed read. The Cardinals got field goals out of two short fields: one following the second interception and the one off the earlier failed fake punt. They didn't do a ton on offense, with Kerwynn Wiliams the standout performer with 20 carries for 73 yards, but Tennessee wasn't able to take advantage of any of Gabbert's interceptable passes and he didn't fumble on any of the sacks he took, and that was enough with Tennessee's broken offense.

Rob Weintraub: Jason LaCanfora reports that Mariota played with a knee injury, which would A) suck and B) explain some of the lack of oomph on his throws.

New York Jets 0 at Denver Broncos 23

Scott Kacsmar: I had my fill of this one after I saw Bryce Petty force a dangerous pass short of the sticks on third-and-short. He then missed the open fourth-down throw too. Denver leads 23-0 and the losing streak is finally going to end.

Baltimore Ravens 38 at Pittsburgh Steelers 39

Scott Kacsmar: Pretty entertaining half. Steelers put up 20 points on four drives. Ben Roethlisberger has been great, but did get away with one terrible throwaway that Terrell Suggs dropped, leading to a 52-yard field goal by Chris Boswell, who seems to have figured out Heinz Field's kicking difficulties. The Ravens also put together long back-to-back touchdown drives after some shoddy tackling by the Steelers. Alex Collins runs really hard. Reminds me of a Marion Barber, or Devonta Freeman for an active comparison. Steelers seem to have avoided the almost inevitable Le'Veon Bell injury. He left the game momentarily in the second quarter, but returned before the half ended. 

Aaron Schatz: Have the Steelers decided to run the Patriots defensive scheme from September? The "let's not all run the same coverage" scheme? There have been some Ravens receivers just absurdly open. If they do this against the Patriots next week, it may be a bloodbath. Or both defenses will do it and we'll have 100 points scored.

Bryan Knowles: And now Baltimore takes a 31-20 lead late in the third quarter.

Who ARE the Steelers? I'm shocked they're not dead last in variance; it feels like they can blow out the best teams in football and then get dragged around by the very worst. Not that the Ravens are among the very worst or anything, but I was expecting a much stronger performance from Pittsburgh tonight. We're in December, and I still don't have any idea how good they actually are.

Aaron Schatz: I am so sick of having Pittsburgh upsets in Any Given Sunday. 

Rob Weintraub: The Steelers are suffering from post-Bengals hangover too -- they're talented enough so that their version isn't nearly as lifeless as Cincy's effort, but clearly they aren't all the way there either. 

Rivers McCown: Apparently Ryan Shazier is the most important defensive player in the league

Antonio Brown should be the offensive player of the year. Discuss. 

Aaron Schatz: I will give Shazier credit for leading the league in defeats going into this week, with 28.

But wow, the Steelers are lucky they won that game. Roethlisberger heaved the ball up with some passes on that last drive that were begging to be intercepted. Just chucked it up to whoever could come down with the thing.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 11 Dec 2017

165 comments, Last at 25 Feb 2018, 4:29am by CarRepairing


by apbadogs :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 10:29am

Does anyone know why Carolina/Minnesota was on CBS?

by Joshua Northey :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:43am

My understanding is that the TV contracts are a lot less black and white than they used to be regarding conferences due to more rules about switching and swapping games and such.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:02pm

They starting switching games in 2011 (they gave Denver at Minnesota game to Fox during the height of Tebow-mania), in order to balance out Fox and CBS’s schedules (both from a quantity and quality standpoint).

by billprudden :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 10:50am

Re: Josh Gordon's future contract(s). I could see him going year-to-year, all cash, so if he gets suspended the team doesn't have to pay him. Julio Jones is averaging something like 14m a year, so Josh would be looking at almost 1m a game... That's a pretty powerful incentive, though addiction is not necessarily a rational business.

by jtr :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 10:53am

>But Gordon is a restricted free agent at the end of the year, and you've got to be afraid he'll get suspended again if he just mows grass or pulls a weed or cooks in a pot. For all their cap space, you can't possibly risk more than a two-year deal, can you?

Josh Gordon is actually an Exclusive Rights Free Agent this offseason since he doesn't have enough playing time to be an RFA. That's an even more restrictive category and it means the Browns can force him to sign a 1 year deal for around $3M. That gives them the option to wait him out for a season to make sure he has his life together, or it gives them a ton of leverage to sign him to a longer deal. I'm sure any contract he ends up signing would be largely based on playing time incentives, which would mitigate most of the risk of a long term deal.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:02am

The biggest story in Vikings/Panthers is that center Pat Elflein, who might be the Vikings best performing o-linemen, was a scratched with a shoulder injury, and Riley Rieff went down with an ankle injury. They weathered having Remmers out several weeks now, because Hill, a 2nd year undrafted free agent, has stepped up, but there aren't too many NFL offenses which will function close to optimally, once they lose both tackles
and the center. The running game suffers, making Keenum more predictable, as the protection suffers as well. Not a good combination.

The defense really has to step up, which they did not do yesterday. I still think the biggest weakness they have is the interior d line, where whomever is next to Linval Joseph is kind of just a guy. Losing Sharif Floyd to a surgery mishap really has kept this defense from being great, instead of merely good.

by James-London :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:16am

First time I've seen the Vikings this year, and yes, the line looked like a problem, but as you say, losing both tackles and your center will do that.
That said, if the Vikings hold three passes and make a couple of tackles, it's a game they win. It's also a game they win against just about any other QB.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:34am

I read that Shirles and Hill gave up 5 pressures each. But I thought they did an admirable job overall against a good front 7. If not for some key drops and some bad throws by the QB they could have actually won that game.

Sendejo is usually such a reliable last man to take down a runner, he sure messed up big on the two 60 yard runs. One was a rather bizarre guess as to where the run was going and the other he just got beat by a really good move by Newton.

I really miss Floyd, he used to make so many of those quick penetration plays. They lack that in the interior now.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:08pm

Oh, a healthy Floyd really would have made this defense extremely dominant the last two seasons. Hill is just a remarkable find as an undrafted rookie; I thought he was better than Remmmers on the right side. Zimmer is notoriously tight lipped about injuries, so who knows what the prognosis is on Elflein and Rieff. Without them, winning playoff games gets much, much, harder

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 10:58am

"Meanwhile, I suppose that sews up the MVP for Tom Brady? Assuming he doesn't go down, too?"

Buffalo, and reasonable responses to questionable officiating, will have something to say about that.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:37pm

Brady was the leading candidate anyways, IMO; Wentz has been very good, Brady has been better. Typically, the NFL hasn't been like the NBA during the Jordan years when they started handing out the MVP to other people than MJ just because they were sick of giving it to him. Besides, Brady's only won it twice, and Peyton won it five times.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:22pm

You seem to be saying that deliberate targeting is a "reasonable response to questionable officiating".


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:26pm

Gronk thought so.

You and RickA tended to agree with him.


by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:29pm

At what point did Gronk describe his actions as "reasonable"?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:35pm

He didn't say it was reasonable. He did put the bad officiating forth as a rationalization for his behavior, and some FO posters did concur with that rationalization.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:39pm

It wasn't a rationalization, it was an explanation.

I made several arguments saying that his complaints about the officiating were valid. That does not mean that I excused his hit.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:53pm

Yes, it was an explanation about as useful as saying that the opponent said mean things to him, so he drilled him in the back of the head, as he was laying out of bounds, for a few seconds.

There was a poster, not you, who went so far as saying the opponent "deserved" what Gronk did to him.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:11pm

That's true.

This is where you excused his hit:

"Gronk has claimed temporary rage inspired his attack. That would put it either as manslaughter or second-degree depending on whether you think the concussion was the intent of the attack or the result of an intentional attack that wasn't specifically made to cause that injury."

"Because Gronk didn't start the game headhunting White? Because, while the hit was late, it wasn't intended to cause a concussion?
Why is manslaughter treated differently by the law than first-degree murder? Because it's different."

"I would dispute the claim that the hit was a "deliberate attempt to injure a defenseless opposing player outside the flow of the game".
My main dispute is with "deliberate attempt to injure".
Gronk deliberately hit the guy hard. While many here claim that he landed on White's neck or head, the replay doesn't bear that out. He landed on the back. It was a dangerous hit but it wasn't a "deliberate attempt to injure" anybody."

It's cool, right? It was a football play, and not a deliberate attempt to injure. Sure, unlike Bernard Pollard's hit, it wasn't even plausibly legal, but it's cool, right? Targeted late hits out of bounds are no different than a block parallel to the sideline.

There's no legitimate basis to take exception to driving Brady into the ground, well after the play, with a forearm to the back of his neck, right? We've all agreed on this?

\BTW -- Pollard's hit was legal even under the Kimo Rule -- he was being blocked to the ground at the time of the hit. It's illegal now, but most ways of tackling a QB are illegal now.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:45pm

Since the OP offered "reasonable" explicitly, this response isn't sufficient.

I also suspect there is significant conflation between "explaining" and "rationalizing" in your post. Members had a great deal of difficult with those concepts last week.

EDIT: Rick's post above validates my suspicion. :)

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:55pm

Yeah, I don't see the "explanation", given the way Gronk stated it, as being meaningfully different than a rationalization. If you differ, fine.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:37pm

No, at no point did I say Gronk's response was reasonable. What I said was it wasn't premeditated. Which is exactly the kind of hit you're encouraging.

Talking to some you guys is an exercise in futility. You just aren't very good at rigorous arguments. I'm constantly having to deal with invented arguments wrongly attributed to me.

I try to delineate the parameters of my point and people just don't listen.

by sbond101 :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:54pm

Agreed; It seems, here and elsewhere, that people can't see past what engages them emotionally (Gronk hit a defenseless player, it was ugly to watch, and upsetting to any observer) and have a rational discussion about anything else relating to the incident. e.g. suggesting that pre-meditated targeting (including what is suggested above, and likely the hit on Burfict last Monday) is equivalent, not being able to discuss the role of officials in games that get out of hand, assuming the player "lost his mind" and not considering whether it was a "purpose pitch". An interesting question - is this sudden mind-closure "dirty hit derangement syndrome" or is this "Pats derangement syndrome"; In this community I really think it's the former. From what I've observed here over the last few years this community has very little time/tolerance for even "clean" violence in football, much less the stuff the commissioners office doesn't want to see the field. It's interesting for the first read, and exasperating when it chases away any dissenting perspective.

by Rich A :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 8:17pm

Exactly, that was the conversation that I was trying to have but I botched it because I said White deserved it rather than phrasing it as a question of "did White deserve it?"

The point wasn't to defend Gronk or say it was okay. It was to understand the reasoning and rationale behind it. As well as explore the ideas which you so aptly summarized.

Is there a space for business decisions with regards to tackling or DPI or conversely with trash talk or playing through the whistle (steve smitha and norman, or Gronk). What's the difference between premeditated and in a fit of anger, or even in the case of Pittsburgh and the Bengals in a prolonged feud that seems to be played with an intent to cause injury/damage on every play possible - even in a legal way - maybe especially in legal ways (using the play as a basis for allowed assault versus individuals they don't like - and they don't like because of past game conduct during play).

And yes, the reason why I rarely comment is that my conversations would typically just devolve into being called names without necessarily being considered (although I do admit that I didn't use the fine nuance I should've in my prior post that inflamed a lot of the conversation). It seems like there's a cognitive dissonance to me about what people here are actually fans of, the game - separate of the violence, when the violence is inherent to the game and thus the players.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 8:45pm

Why a professional should be cut some slack for failing to control his temper is puzzling to me.

If you review the thread, it was you who engaged in the most blatant, invective-laden, ad hominem rhetoric.

by Rich A :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 2:02am

Did I argue that he shouldn't be suspended? A reason can be understood and even logical/rational and still fall short of sufficiency for dismissing culpability. I don't think I ever made the argument you're saying I made. If I said at any point Gronk shouldn't be suspended please refer me to that post number. I can simultaneous believe an action can be rational and reasoned and thus have a basis for committing but also that it's wrong (legally/morally/etc). And I've posted several times that I meant to phrase my idea as a question to spark a discussion about the nature of retaliation in the league, even during play or through the whistle, and you insist on holding me to my first post that even as a title has the comment phrased as a question.

Second, if you can refer me to any of my ad hominem attacks regarding posters of this site I'd be willing look to retract them as it wasn't my intent to discredit anyone here based on their personhood. I do acknowledge that when I referenced the sports commentator I was derogatory as I don't really give a lot of credence to the hot-take artists who look to cut off HoF players and tell them what constitutes "the game". Did Wright deserve that? Maybe. He seems to act like it's okay to spout off invectives and thus I used the term "Yuppie", which based on Urban Dictionary I used exactly correctly, to level a hot take about his nature of making hot takes. Was it wrong to use slang, which by the general definition is not even derogatory, to draw attention to this? I also acknowledge that my position is that I give more weight to those that have played the game at the pro level, such as Cris Carter, than other posters. I don't think weighing some perspectives as more valid than others or that trying to hold layered ideas about the nature of the violence of the game makes my comments blatant invective laden ad hominem rhetoric.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 7:04am

Why, it might be said that if a "rationale" is being put forth, a "rationalization" has been made. You said the concussed player deserved it. Then you've said you meant to phrase it as a question, to spark a discussion. If you had merely observed that more tightly and better officiated games tend to have a lower level of hitting after the play, I don't think anyone would have disagreed with you.

The whole Cris Carter thing put forth was bizarre, in that it ignores that you could have found plenty of NFL players who took opposite positions, and it set up the guy who was differing with Carter as some sort of straw man that you could discredit via some sort of bizarre socioeconomic commentary. For the record, the attire of people who disagree with the former NFL player you agree with doesn't really mean anything.

You also went so far as to take the condescending approach of implying that those who differ with you are likely to have limited experience with sports competition at a high level. Besides it being condescending, it, again, flies in the face of several former NFL players differing with you, particularly with regard to whether a one game suspension was sufficient.

I really am bored with the topic by now, so you can have the last word.

by Alternator :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 9:45pm

So Gronk losing his temper and diving on a guy late is bad.

But the Bills players intentionally trying to injure Brady is good.

Nice to see some of the loudest voices calling for a long Gronk suspension seem to be in agreement here - or at least, don't disagree.

by Theo :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 4:53am

Antonio Brown should be MVP

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 10:59am

Isn't Keenum the best backup QB on a playoff contender? Bradford was the nominal starter.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:42pm

You could definitely argue that. I was thinking at that exact moment in time, as Keenum hasn't backed anyone up in months, but if you want to go back to before the season, then yeah, I could get behind that.

In that particular situation, I would argue that the Eagles ~believed~ they had the better backup in Foles and had done more to lock down their backup position should something happen, but that's a different discussion.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:03am

"Roethlisberger heaved the ball up with some passes on that last drive that were begging to be intercepted. Just chucked it up to whoever could come down with the thing."

He's become mid-career Brett Favre?

by Steve B :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:09pm

You'd think a guy who just became the first QB in NFL history with three 500-yard passing games would get a little more credit.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:25pm

Against the #1 DVOA defense (#2 DVOA pass defense), even.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:05am

"Officials just called No. 50 on the Rams, Samson Ebukam, for leverage on a field goal attempt by the Eagles. It didn't look like he did anything wrong. Maybe they meant to call it on Aaron Donald?"

I assumed it was actually Tyrunn Walker, #95, who jumped and landed on the snapper.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:42am

that call was bizarre, I'm guessing you are right that they called it on 95. But on Thanksgiving the Lions were hammering the viking's snapper and nothing was called.

NFL officiating is incredibly inconsistent.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:28pm

Jumping and landing on a player isn't supposed to be leveraging. Leveraging is when a player climbs on another player, pushing off to gain extra height.
Not just falling on another guy in a manner that doesn't remotely help a player block a kick.
Mike Pereira saw nothing. What you see in the photo in the link below is not leveraging.


That the officials gave a clearly wrong uniform number didn't help matters.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:40pm

I have to assume it's actually 95. The ref who throws the flag is looking right at, throw it at his feet, and maybe he kneels on Lovato and tries to jump up from his back.

But the rule seems to be enforceable just for landing on the blocker the way he did.

"Jumping on an opponent to attempt to block a kick" is part of the leverage definition. It sort of makes "leaping" superfluous.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:40pm

I have to assume it's actually 95. The ref who throws the flag is looking right at, throw it at his feet, and maybe he kneels on Lovato and tries to jump up from his back.

But the rule seems to be enforceable just for landing on the blocker the way he did.

"Jumping on an opponent to attempt to block a kick" is part of the leverage definition. It sort of makes "leaping" superfluous.

by erniecohen :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:17am

Aaron repeated the same observation about the OPI on the 2-point try made by the commentators of the BUF-IND game, and both were wrong. From the cleared snow, you can tell the block happens at the goal line, so it wasn't within 1 yard of scrimmage. Math really does help sometimes.

by sbond101 :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:36am

I think this is what the officials concluded in their "huddle" which seemed to take forever. It was close/hard to see on the broadcast, but I think it was the right call, and pretty obvious on the replay I just looked up on youtube.

by Rich A :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 8:24pm

I just went to Youtube as well because I thought it was clean.

Upon second thought it looks like he's at the 0.5 yard line (left foot on goal line), so 1.5 yards from actual LoS.

He definitely didn't need to hold the defender. And he could've just set up at the 1 yard mark and blocked and he would've been good.

To me the point that I thought I was going to be making was the difference between the 1 yard blocking downfield and the 5 yard chuck area for DB's. To me it seems like there could be interference there (I thought the DB may have been holding the guy blocking - I didn't see it closely on TV during the actual game); so if a WR goes for a rub or block and the DB guarding him holds him or is jamming him. But that's a moot discussion. Could still be an interesting intersection of the rules.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:18am

Even with all the injuries and the post-Pittsburgh hangover, the Bengals' performance was shockingly bad. Looked like they were trying to get Marvin fired.

by jtr :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:22am

Bryce Petty went 2-9 for 14 yards in relief of McCown. Who's excited for the Petty-Hackenberg camp battle next offseason!

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:33pm

I'd say that list consists of (A) Bryce Petty's mom, (B) Christian Hackenberg's mom, and (C) fans of the Bills, Dolphins, and Patriots.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:13pm

Considering that competition is for who remains inactive/ 3rd quarterback on game days next year, I don't think it's going to get a lot of talk on tv or otherwise. The Jets will most likely draft somebody, and they will have 100 million in cap room once they cut Wilkerson.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:23pm

However, if Petty can repeat this performance for 3 weeks, I'll thank him for getting the Jets a QB on his way out the door. Seriously, they can jump the Broncos draft position now. The Broncos are at the Colts and Squirrels, and play KC at home, where the Broncos are actually a decent team. The Jets play at New Orleans and New England, and have the Chargers at home. I think Denver's chances of beating KC are much better than the Jets' chances against Los Angeles, and the road games are much easier for the Broncos. GO Vance Joseph GO!

by Richie :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 7:31pm

Who are the squirrels?

by Rich A :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 8:24pm

Washington DC

by Richie :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 8:54pm

I looked on Google, and can't find any reason to call them the squirrels.

by Scott P. :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 8:59pm

Raiderjoe doesn't like to call them by their current offensive name, so he created another name for them. I like it. No more odd than the Detroit Lions.

by jedmarshall :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 8:31am

I believe you mean the Detroit Loins.

by Richie :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 7:31pm

Dolphins fans don't care. We once allowed Geno Smith to have a perfect passer rating against us. https://www.pro-football-reference.com/boxscores/201412280mia.htm I'm sure we could do the same for Petty or Hackenberg.

by johonny :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:33am

Why NFL ratings are bad 101: Watch the first half of Buffalo-Colts. It was can't miss TV. Had to go home because my son got tired. Only game on at home was Giants-Dallas, a game that made Bass Masters feel fresh and exciting. Decided not to watch it for the good of my health. AFCleast breakdown 1) Pats much like last year the NFL injury bug keeps breaking their way. 2) Bills Yes, Joe Webb can beat Miami. 3) Jets Finally the Jets team everyone expected to see this year arrived just in time for the holiday season. 4) Mia whatever happened to the NFL flexing games late in the year? So many good games yesterday and this crapfeast set to appear on Monday night. I don't get it.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:40am

I don't believe the NFL has ever flexed Monday night games.

by Mike B. In Va :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:58pm

Sunday night is the showcase game now. There have been plenty of crapfest Monday games.

by RickD :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:45pm

1) the Pats made their entire playoff run without Gronk last year. This year they've played the entire season without Edelman and most of it without Donta' Hightower.
The Steelers lost their best LB? Welcome to the club.

As for Wentz, that hurts the Eagles but there are a half dozen other teams that would benefit more than the Patriots - namely the other NFC contenders.

by Steve B :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:10pm

Shazier is similar to Troy Polamalu in terms of what he brings to the Steelers' defense. Hightower's good, but not at the same level. Steelers have also been w/o Joe Haden, which has caused issues in the secondary.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:54pm

1) Pats much like last year the NFL injury bug keeps breaking their way.

NE may not have been hit as hard as teams like Houston and NYG, but they are likely in the top 10 for injuries. As a for instance, against Buffalo this past week, NE was missing 3 of their original top 5 WRs, their best DE, their best LB (and lost their second best for most of the game), as well as their #1 and #2 RTs. They've also had multi-game stretches without their top CB, top DT, C, #3 CB (whose absence overlapped with their #1) and their multi-dimensional RB.

So, no, the injury bug has most certainly not broken their way. It's just that no one notices because they've kept winning anyway.

by Richie :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 7:33pm

The only injury that would matter for the Patriots is Brady.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 8:02pm

Eh. what I've noticed with the Patriots in the past is that injuries to the interior of the o-line can have a noticeable effect on Brady. The 1st Super Bowl loss to the Giants in large measure occurred due to Stephen Neal getting hurt in the game. I don't remember the first three Brady Super Bowls that well, but the last 4 have been significantly affected by injuries during the game.

by Richie :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 8:13pm

"but the last 4 have been significantly affected by injuries during the game.

And they still won 2 of them, and were very close to winning the other 2.

That's probably the craziest thing about the Patriots' run. 6 of their 7 Super Bowls basically came down to the last play.

by dmstorm22 :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 8:23pm

I think that's somewhat what Will meant. At least in the Seattle Super Bowl, injuries to Cliff Avril and Jeremy Lane really stunted their defense late.

IIRC, both injuries came on the two Brady interceptions of all things.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 8:41pm

That was my point.

by Richie :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 8:57pm

OK. My point is that the Patriots can lose important players like Gronkowski, Hernandez or Stephen Neal. But if they still have Brady, they still have at least a coin flip chance of winning the Super Bowl.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 10:15pm

And Seattle or Atlanta can lose key defensive personnel, and still have a coin flip chance of beating the Patriots. The point is that close contests often swing on the injuries that occur during the game

by Rich A :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 2:12am

Also the Rodgers-Cromartie Injury in the Patriots-Broncos game from 11 Nov 2013. Patriots were down 24-0 at the half and DRC injured himself on the last play before half. Patriots came back to win in OT that after Brady attacked the replacement.

As you said, injuries in games can certainly swing them in huge ways.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 9:42am

The only injury that would matter for the Patriots is Brady.

Last night's game is certainly evidence to the contrary.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 12:44pm

I was going to respond yesterday that Gronk is up there, but didn't expecting a bunch of 'they won the Super Bowl last year without him' comments.

Biggest issue to that is they also had Edelman last year, and the OL was, at least to my eyes, better last year (and the defense of course, but let's limit it to offense for now).

The numbers for Brady's career with and without Gronk are pretty stark. Last year was the first time he really excelled without him.

Luckily for NE they get Gronk back right in the nick of time for hte biggest game.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:43am

Question - I'm to bias to tell for myself, but was the officiating in the Steelers Raven's game a dogs breakfast? It looked bad to me (and not just anti-Steelers), and what the fuck was going on at with the last play of the game?

re Shazier - The Steelers defense lost their best player in the secondary, and they lost their best player in the LB corp. Worse, Shazier is being replaced with a back up pass-rush specialist, and a street free agent who's draft profile was "undersized but fast as hell" then suffered an almost career ending knee injury that robbed him of his speed.

There is no way this defense is going to hold up if Joe Haden can't return for the playoffs. Last I heard was he might, might be ready for the Pats game this week.

Based on what I saw last night, Steelers are burnt toast without him.

by DGL :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:57am

> what the fuck was going on at with the last play of the game?

Rule 4.3.2(f): If a fumble or backward pass by any player goes out of bounds, the game clock starts when an official places the ball at the inbounds line, and the Referee signals that the ball is ready for play.

IOW: Flacco fumbled the ball out of bounds. As soon as the official on the sideline took the ball and marked it on the sideline at the point where it went out of bounds and the referee indicated ready for play, the clock started - just as if Flacco had been tackled inbounds without fumbling.

If fumbling out of bounds stopped the clock like a ballcarrier going out of bounds after two minutes, then players would be rewarded for fumbling the ball out of bounds (or simply throwing it backwards across the sideline) if they're getting tackled inbounds, which would be silly.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:06pm

Understand the rule, but didn't see that the ball was marked. I thought they wound 10 seconds off the clock like the fumble was some kind of penalty.

Thanks for the clarification.

by DGL :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:31pm

Yeah, they didn't really show what was happening on the TV coverage. The highlight shows the official signaling to stop the clock as he goes to mark the spot on the sideline, then cuts to the Steelers' D celebrating. I don't recall what they showed after that, but I'm pretty certain it wasn't the official spotting the ball or the ref winding the clock. They did show Coleman announcing something like "the clock started on the ready for play so that's the end of the game" but it was kind of cryptic.

And showing the official on the sideline signaling clock stoppage (which was a correct signal, since the clock stops until the ball is spotted) and not showing the referee winding the clock once the ball was spotted added to the confusion.

by DGL :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:32pm

I also note that the NFL has eschewed the gender-specific title "Head Linesman" in favor of "Down Judge".

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:02pm

Did I see Belichick yelling at a female official last week?

He wanted a measurement so I think she would be a "Head Linesman" / "Down Judge".

Edit: here it is and she's got DJ on the back of her uniform

by DGL :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:05pm

Could be. From Football Zebras:

The NFL has moved Sarah Thomas, the league’s first permanent female official, from the line judge to the mirror position, and the new name is now gender neutral.

by JMM :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:30pm

While I certainly understand your conclusion, I am by nature an optimist. I would like to see the Steelers play nickel and dime vs the Pats next week with W. Gay in as the Shazier replacement and force (allow) the Pats to run the ball. This would at least shorten the game and give an edge to Ben in a high scoring game. I think the perceived weakness of Flacco drew more attention to stopping the Raven's running game. This was not successful. Ben was able to out-duel Flacco. If the Steelers stay with the "first stop the run" philosophy they have espoused over the decades, then they will likely lose, again.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:17pm

I'm much more of a pessimist. As a long-time Steeler hater, I feel that the Pats will have problems in next week's game due to: 1) playing Monday night against one of the dirtier teams in the league, 2) not having the best pass defense playing a guy who threw for 500 yards yesterday, and 3) the fact that the game is in Pittsburgh, so the Steelers will probably get the calls.

by Steve B :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:22pm

Not sure on that last one. They didn't get the calls last night.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:26pm

Yeah, you got a point. It's mostly 1 and 2 for me. I have my doubts about the Patriots defense; Gilmore supposedly has been much better, but against the Bills he kept face guarding guys and not having it called. Of course, the Bills were allowed to mug Gronk and the rest of the Patriots receivers, so perhaps it was just the crew, but I think somebody who put up 500 against the Ravens should be able to torch the Pats defense.

by Anon Ymous :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:38pm

I don't recall the prior two 500 yard games being predictive of much. If I'm worried about Pitt's passing game, it's less about this game and more about the fact that they've averaged 37ppg in their last three home games.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:48am

When Goff gave up the sack fumble in the 4th quarter I realized his throwing motion reminds me of Randall Cunningham. And that play reminded me of the one Atlanta made against Cunningham in 1998 NFC Championship.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:56pm

Cunningham getting strip sacked just before halftime, and his blatant underthrow of Randy Moss, 50 yards dowfield, 5 yards clear of the defender in ot, in that NFCCG, is why ol' Randall is the only Viking MVP (undeserving, to be sure) I have mostly blocked from my memory.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:53pm

Cunningham was throwing those things short all year, but Moss kept bailing him out. All year I was hoping they would put Johnson back because I thought he was better. Kind of the same feeling this year.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:59pm

If you are going to have a big wind-up, get the damned ball far enough downfield!

by James-London :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:54am

This, from PFT Commentator is perfect:

"The NFL concussion protocol would of cleared JFK to reenter the parade"

The protocol is worthless

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:58am

"would of" is a dead give-away where that comment was culled from.

by dryheat :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 11:57am

My Lord was Eli horrid yesterday. On many throws he didn't have time, but he missed several open receivers badly.

Can we now stop the hair pulling and gnashing of teeth? This has been going on all season. He deserved to be benched for poor performance, if not to give the other QBs a shot. Frankly, I'm not sure a quarterback with better mobility wouldn't be a better alternative.

by D :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:08pm

The Bears are 3-0 against the AFC North this year with Cleveland still to be played. They'd be playoff contenders if they didn't have to play the other 12 games.

by TomC :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:19pm

A commenter on a Bears blog pointed out that they were 4-0 against the AFCN in 2013. So the last time the Bears lost to anyone in that division was 2009 (Cutler's first year with the Bears).

by ammek :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:28pm

I would totally love to see Ben Muth-style special teams analysis on this site.

The NFC playoff picture is so much fun. All of the contenders are interesting to watch, and built quite differently from one another, and play in smaller or more unfashionable markets. By chance the schedule mostly has them playing against each other in the second half of the season, and they keep beating up on one another, which is why the 49ers now have the joint-longest win streak in the conference. I think the Eagles with Wentz probably were the most rounded of the contenders; now it's wide open. The only negative is that the NFC headline games draw the Buck-Aikman announcing team, whose dullness and self-satisfaction seem more tiresome than ever now that Phil Simms has been banished to the studio.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:43pm

The Bucs turned the ball over five times, I think Stafford had maybe three incompletions in the first half, and still only lost on a last-minute FG. This was a game Detroit should have won easily, and I wasn't exactly impressed by anyone on that team.

Gerald McCoy might have torn his biceps again. Ugh. The defense basically consists of him as the only person on the defensive line capable of generating any pressure, and then there are three good LBs. Mad props to Chris Conte yesterday having a clear shot on a Detroit RB in the hole and diving in for the tackle, whiffing completely. I really feel like the rest of the defense needs to write Lavonte David an apology for dragging him down to their level of suckitude.

But, hey, Peyton Barber might be an OK choice at RB after the dead weight of Doug Martin's salary is flung from the team this offseason. When the draft rolls around, I just hope the team selects nothing but DEs so maybe we can have one that can rush the passer better than my dead grandmother.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:11pm

“Mad props to Chris Conte yesterday having a clear shot on a Detroit RB in the hole and diving in for the tackle, whiffing completely.“

After that play, I was wondering where this running game was all season for the Lions, then I saw the replay, and was like, “Ohhh, Chris Conte...”. I kind of wish he was still in the NFC North so the Lions could play against him more often.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:43pm

I'm really beginning to get a Josh McCown kind of vibe from Chris Conte, just in the sense that the guy has been so awful for so long, yet somehow keeps starting.

by Steve in WI :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 2:11pm

And of course Conte is even more perplexing. At least QBs are in short supply, but is it really that hard to find a competent NFL safety?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:26pm

“The Bucs turned the ball over five times, I think Stafford had maybe three incompletions in the first half, and still only lost on a last-minute FG. This was a game Detroit should have won easily, and I wasn't exactly impressed by anyone on that team.”

This is exactly why I’m not that all that enthusiastic about seeing the Lions make the playoffs (as slim as that possibility is). With Haloti Ngata out, their front 7 is baaad. Can’t stop the run, can’t pressure the quarterback. If they don’t get turnovers, they can’t stop anybody.

I’ve decided that Jameis Winston is a fun quarterback to watch if you’re a neutral party. He’s either moving the Bucs offense, or he’s committing a terrible turnover. Either way, a big play is happening! That’s much more fun that a quarterback who simply goes 3 and out all the time. I feel like Blake Bortles is graduating into this category.

by billprudden :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:37pm

"I’ve decided that Jameis Winston is a fun quarterback to watch if you’re a neutral party. He’s either moving the Bucs offense, or he’s committing a terrible turnover. Either way, a big play is happening! That’s much more fun that a quarterback who simply goes 3 and out all the time. I feel like Blake Bortles is graduating into this category."

Favre, Eli, and Flacco would remind you that if you do that for a few games in a row, anythng can happen!

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:47pm

I've said many times that Jameis Winston makes games never boring, because he can make all the plays he needs to make and all the plays he never should make, and you never know which is going to happen. He's better this year at decision making (on the field, at least), and he's stopped sailing passes across the middle. The big problem is he does have that Young Favre "things are falling apart, I can totally do SOMETHING to save this play" thing going on, and sometimes it's great, sometimes it's last week's fumble returned for a TD. I actually get kind of excited when he gets sacked, because at least he didn't throw a pick six while falling down with two defenders in his face.

I don't feel like Blake Bortles is graduating into anything other than "guy who plays well one year with a solid defense so is about to get overpaid". I know yesterday was exciting for Jaguars fans, but Bortles threw a couple beautiful passes, the kind you rarely see from him. If this team wins a playoff game, the Jaguars are going to be tragically tempted to give this guy an extension.

by billprudden :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 3:39pm

I had not considered the contractual implications of Bortles looking something like average this year, you certainly make a point. God, a Flacco-type albatross without even Flacco-type upside.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:55pm

It's terrifyingly plausible, right? I mean, I think right now they might offer him some team-friendly deal that basically is a one- or two-year contract, but let's say he Good Flaccoes up the last few games and playoffs, and he over 3-4 games has some 63% completion and a 10 TD/3 INT statline. It's not likely, but that could happen. Do the Jags then say "Well, we could draft a guy to develop, but our defense is ready NOW, and our other alternative is a bidding war for Kirk Cousins, so we just re-sign Blake . . ."

Without exaggeration, I think this is the worst possible scenario for Jaguars fans. Given a choice between the team utterly collapsing and missing the playoffs in some awful way and Blake Bortles' playing well enough to get any kind of multi-year extension, I think missing the playoffs is the less painful alternative.

by billprudden :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 5:57pm

I'm with you 100%. UNLESS, and BIG IF, going full Flacco means a ring... Then why not, for that's the point of the exercise, ain't it?

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 6:05pm

"is the worst possible scenario for Jaguars fan"

But the best possible scenario for me!

Watching Jags games this year has been really fun. You either get to watch an awesome defense making great plays, Leonard Fournette break off long runs, or Blake Bortles committing some crazy turnover to completely cancel out the former two.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:29pm

The Lions consider a close game late, attempting a long FG to be an easy win.

That's when they have you right where they want you.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 1:37pm

Detroit responded in Lion fashion with 3 turnovers of their own, but yeah they should have won easily. The 10 minutes it took to review (and make multiple wrong calls) the defenseless-receiver/interception/fumble/incompletion play in the first quarter is why I think I should give up on the NFL. Though I think the final call was probably correct.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:50pm

It was correct in the end, but it was still the most bizarre officiating thing I saw this weekend (which is saying something). O.J. Howard catches the ball, takes a few steps, get hit, and drops the ball. The officials throw a flag for defenseless receiver and rule the pass incomplete anyways. Then, they talk about it for a while, then Caldwell throws a challenge flag. The officials declare it not a penalty (and it shouldn't have been one), and then announce it was a fumble and Detroit ball. It sure seemed to me they reversed the penalty call based on an instant replay review, which, while I think they got the call right, it was still not vaguely policy.

by morganja :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 12:58pm

"he just sauntered along down the right sideline and outjumped a defender for the ball"

Fantastic writing, especially just for a blog format like this. A pleasure to read.

by jmaron :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:09pm

so 3 of the likely NFC playoff teams will have QBs that recently played for Jeff Fisher. Of course they all sucked there. Man the way QBs sucked under him it has to make you wonder if Steve McNair might have been the greatest QB of all time.

by billprudden :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:19pm

Differences between McNair's and Cam Newton's or Ben's on-field game?

And as much as a preening annoyance as he is, as long as Cam doesn't suffer a career-changing injury, he's gonna end up with a lot of stats, and Ben already has...

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 2:52pm

It's also not a completely fair comparison, as Jeff Fisher actually seemed like a real coach back in his early days when he had McNair and that good defense. In the years he had Keenum, Foles, and Goff, Fisher was basically collecting a paycheck and trying to stay awake.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 3:12pm

There's a bit of chicken and egg there though - maybe he 'seemed like a real coach' because he had an all-world quarterback bailing him out all the time, and that success had players buying in, etc.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 3:23pm

Don't forget, McNair also briefly gave the early Ravens a semblance of an offense.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 3:49pm

TJ Watt seemed to be the only Steeler defender making plays in the 4th quarter. Badger fans continue to be mocked at Packer websites by other Packer fans who insist we are just homers for thinking Ted Thompson could do worse than draft some Wisconsin grads. But seeing Joe yesterday for Cleveland and TJ for PIttsburgh several times this season I for one think Badger fans are getting a bum rap. These guys are making plays for ok to good defenses while GB's linebacker corps is pretty sorry

by Cheesehead_Canuck :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 3:57pm

Somebody tell me to stop wasting time playing with ESPN's playoff machine to see how many teams have finish the season 1-2 in order for Green Bay to make the playoffs.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:06pm
by dank067 :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:20pm

It would be easier not to bother with any hope if they hadn't had two recent experiences (2013 and 2016) where the playoffs looked highly improbable... and then just about everything that needed to go their way went their way.

That being said, after this season became such a slog, I'm just going to enjoy getting the chance to see Rodgers (hopefully) play three more games, regardless of what happens. Also, given their contract situations (and the fact that Hundley couldn't get them the ball), these last couple games might be the last time we really get to see Nelson or Cobb make big plays green and gold.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:25pm


by NoraDaddy :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:26pm

The hardest part to Green Bay making the playoffs has nothing to do with other teams. If they go 3-0 against Carolina, Minnesota, and Detroit, they have a pretty good shot. The key game is LA beating Seattle. If they don't run the table, they really have no shot.

by poplar cove :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:47pm

say they were to lose this week with Rodgers playing basically ending their season. I wonder if they would bring him back the following week(s). Reason I ask/say that is Packers could effect other teams greatly. the Lions fan in me wants him to sit if they lose and become eliminated but I fear if he does come back then he's playing every game rest of the year win or lose.

by jtr :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 5:20pm

A few years ago, Tony Romo was rushed back from a collarbone break and broke it again almost immediately. It doesn't pay to take medical advice from Dr Jerry Jones, as it turns out. I would hope that Green Bay would learn from that and play it safe with him, especially if they doesn't have anything to play for.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 5:58pm

Personally I am fine with Rodgers being the sideline playcaller the remainder of the season. McCarthy might learn something

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:54pm

In a scenario where GB, ATL, SEA, CAR, and DAL all finish 10-6, Atlanta is the 5 and GB is the 6.

Detroit is the 6 if they beat GB in week 17 and they go 10-6.

If Seattle wins out, both DET and GB lose tie-breakers, and Seattle and Atlanta go.

There is a bizarro world where GB makes the playoffs at 9-7, but it requires a lot of unlikely wins by the Bucs and Bears.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 5:01pm

That's not necessarily true, and depends on how each team gets to 10-6.

Say, for instance, that Green Bay and Dallas win out, Seattle loses to Dallas and Carolina only beats Atlanta. That gets all those teams to 10-6.

Carolina would finish ahead of Atlanta thanks to the head-to-head sweep, meaning the 5th seed would come down to GB, DAL, SEA and CAR.

Green Bay's beaten all of those teams (or, at least, will have done in this scenario), so they get the 5th seed. Dallas gets the 6th based on a head-to-head win over Seattle in Week 16 and a superior conference record compared to Carolina.

by Cheesehead_Canuck :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 11:52am

Don't quote me on this, but I think two of Seattle, Atlanta, and Carolina would have to lose 2 of 3 for them to make it. So even running the table wouldn't guarantee them a WC spot.

by Bryan Knowles :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:41pm


ESPN's Playoff Machine is fairly broken. By this point in the season, it doesn't matter much, but every year, it has had significant bugs in breaking playoff tiebreakers.

So stop wasting time playing with ESPN's playoff machine. Instead, play with this one!


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 5:11pm

There are some hilarious permutations in here.

GB can still be a 2-seed. DET, too. (Usually requires Tampa to win out)

In one reality, CAR finishes as the #2 or misses entirely (#7), depending on the Atlanta-NO game the week before.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:03pm

I am really glad for Trevor Davis. I think Davis has been pretty good on KO returns while being a block away on punt returns. Yes the guy continues to let one too many punts hit the ground and seemingly roll another 20 yards. But yesterday the blockers didn't goof and he made some moves to spring a big return. And if the kicker had not been successful in sweeping the leg might have kept his balance and gone the distance.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:44pm

Before the season I thought he might be cut. I felt that he needed to make the team with special teams, and that he might be too small (under 180 lbs as a rookie) to be a full time kick returner or contribute much on kick/punt coverage, and too unreliable to be the full time punt returner.

To his credit he put on about 10 lbs of muscle in the offseason to get more durable and hasn't fumbled a punt. Don't know if he'll ever contribute much on offense, but he's definitely worth his roster spot.

by big10freak :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 5:07pm

Punt Coverage has improved since he replaced JOnes

by poplar cove :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:42pm

personally speaking (and I know I'm in the minority here) I much rather have all football games be played indoors. That Bills game was horrible IMO. The 4th grader in me likes to watch a snow game for about 5 minutes than it just becomes awful viewing after that, like a 1920's game. The fanatical football fan in me wants to see all the unique skills of running, cutting, precision passing, even solid kicking. I want to come out of every game with the feeling the better team deserved to win that game (though I know that's not possible). That game yesterday and others like it just feel like a total waste of a game for both teams, if I were a Bills/Colts fan I'd feel like that only had a 15 game season this year. None of the information we get from is worth paying attention, etc.....call me an old party pooper but I prefer to see speed, power and quickness.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 4:50pm

I'll admit that I hate to see a good football game ruined by bad weather, but this was the Colts vs. the Peterman Bills. Playing in a blizzard with people slipping everywhere was literally the only way this game had any chance whatsoever of being interesting. I probably would have watched a play or two at best flipping channels in normal weather, but I watched almost that entire game and it was HILARIOUSLY fun.

If that had been Rams-Eagles or Vikings-Panthers, I'd have felt cheated somewhat, but that blizzard was a gift as far as I'm concerned.

by NoraDaddy :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 5:37pm

They should've played Yackity Sax for the Indy/Buffalo game instead of commentators.

by billprudden :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 6:06pm

Sir -

How would the football fan in you like to see a playoff game, between two got-their-shit-together clubs, in those conditions? I'd be fascinated how the coaches adjusted, the risks taken, etc. All on-sides kicks? Always go on 4th down? Multiple downfield bombs? 9 OLs on the field at the same time?

Let's say Caro and NO play each other, and it is 31 degrees in Carolina and big fat snowflakes add up to 8-12 inches. You don't wanna see Cam's athleticism (while he takes little tiny steps) and Sean Payton's play-calling?

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 6:26pm

Detroit and Philadelphia played a similar game in 2013 when both teams were decent.

Green Bay beat Seattle in a snow game in 2008 in the playoffs.

The Tuck Rule game was a snow game.

The 1948 NFL Championship was played in a blizzard.

by Rich A :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 8:39pm

You could go watch highlights from the Patriots-Titans game from Foxborough from 2009. That team had Randy Moss, Welker, etc.

The Pat's typically have a TE that's a power player and a bunch of other role players. A speedster, a short change of direction player, a shifty back and a power back. But they really teach their players how to play in the snow and keep their balance and agility in those situations. They practice outside basically year round except for before the Superbowl and before the away game to Miami.

There's a reason why some teams can play in it, like the Patriots, and some teams are wrecks (like the Titans)(The game was 59-0).

by jedmarshall :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 8:38am

As a Colts fan I totally disagree. The Colts generally look like they are playing in a foot of snow most weeks, so it's nice to drag the other team down to their level.

by Dan :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 7:14pm

The punting game in Buffalo actually worked pretty well. The teams averaged 36.7 yards per punt, or 35 net yards per punt after accounting for the one touchback and the 2 return yards. Good conditions for preventing a return, or for getting the ball to die inside the 10 yard line. Given how important field position was with the offenses struggling to grind out drives, it seems like a worse game than usual to go for it on 4th down instead of punting.

(Field goals are obviously a different story. 4th and 2 on the opponents' 30 you should go for it in the snow. But 4th and 2 at midfield favors punting.)

by BJR :: Mon, 12/11/2017 - 9:54pm

This is purely anecdotal, I have done zero research to back it up, but every time I've watched the Rams this year they seem to have marched down the field on their first possession. They did so yesterday (albeit on a short field), and then again after half-time.

So I do buy into the narrative that there is high quality coaching going on there, and Goff's life is being made less complicated than it could be. The sack-fumble in the 4th quarter was an horrendous error at a critical moment that gives me cause for concern going forward.

by BJR :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 1:10am

I hadn't realized the Patriots will play their third consecutive road game, on a short week, in Pittsburgh.

I expect tonight's offensive showing was an aberration. But it's hard to see how that banged up defense can do anything much to slow down the Steelers. Regardless of history Pittsburgh probably ought to be favored.

by Rich A :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 2:21am

I think it was a few things in play.

1. Brady's arm may be getting tired late in the season and hence underthrown long balls. His two picks intended for Cooks were very underthrown. Although maybe it was the pressure from the Miami defensive line too. Either way, if those throws were farther downfield maybe Cooks catches them.

2. Maybe Gronk really does change and dictate to coverages that much. They got by last year but Bennett was a pretty good fill in TE. After Gronk this year Allen is not comparable in the passing game whatsoever.

3. The Miami handfighting and jamming in conjunction with the Miami defensive line was really screwing with the NE short passing timing. Is that uncalled holding? I'll let each person determine that themselves from watching the plays.

In regards to the defense, I think two deep safeties will play much better against the vertical passing game of the Steelers, although they really need to figure out what to do for run D. The run D this season is atrocious and earlier tonight was no different. It was much better once they went to single high and an extra defender in the box in the nickel. But of course then maybe the corners will get roasted. Butler was consistently getting beat over the top by the Miami WR's, and Brown will roast him if he's staring into the backfield too much.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 7:22am

I haven't watched them super closely this year, but I've read he has been hit more this season, and as I stated back at the beginning of the season, violence and old guys is not a good cumulative combination.

Gronk really does dictate coverage that much, some teams more than others.

by BJR :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 11:23am

Not to write off Brady by any stretch, but I'm wondering whether there may have been one or two remorseful glances at the 49ers game-tape these past couple of weeks from within the Patriots building.

The Patriots have won plenty of games without Gronk, and presumably have those gameplans ready to dust down at a moment's notice. Even accounting for his absence it felt mostly like a freakishly bad night (0/11 on third down, 2 picks which were outstanding plays by the DB, and would fall incomplete most of the time). But the Pats defense gave up yards (and this time points) in every manner conceivable to a previously putrid Miami offence. Score one for DVOA warning us this might be coming.

One of the things the NFL has got right in recent years is backloading divisional games. That's the second time in three years a lousy, out of contention but motivated Dolphins teams has messed with the Patriots playoff seeding late in the season.

by t.d. :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 4:42am

Wow, this New England team, minus Gronk, is poop. Better get that bye (and preferably HFA), hope Brady doesn't take (too many) more hits, his Achilles holds up, and Gronk avoids his semi-annual injuries, or they're about the twentieth best team. Wouldn't surprise me for Belicheck and Brady to magic another Super Bowl run (after all, they flat-out stole their last two rings with similar mediocre rosters plus Superquarterback), but tonight was an eye-opener. Brady absolutely needs either Edelman or Gronk on the field (that's hardly an indictment- great teams need great players- it's just clear how fragile the 'everything works together' machine New England has built really is (and, while I've taken the larger view that it's time to cherish all the great moments Brady has left, because we don't know how many he's got left, and it's "tell your grandkids" kinda stuff, I'll find it a little disheartening if another garbage team in New England steals another ring from this generation riding an ancient quarterback); it'll expose just how quarterback-and-nothing-else dependent the league has become, and it'll make it all feel a little more pointless, sorta like how following small market teams that'll never have a chance in the nba is now). That wasn't a loss; it was an asswhupping

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 7:16am

Don't forget Darth Hoodie pullin' the ol Sith Lord mind trick on his opposing coaches, putting them in a fugue state, where they make decisions without regard to the game being played in front of them!

All Patriot snark aside, he really does have a better organized mind, which makes for less chaotic decision-making at the end of tight games.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 9:47am

It was ugly, no doubt, but NE has had plenty of ugly games in Miami even when relatively healthy. I'd hold off on busting out the jump-to-conclusions mat just yet.

by jtr :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 9:07am

Ultimately, this NE loss doesn't really change the fact that next week's Pittsburgh-New England game probably dictates the top seed. Both teams have easy schedules to finish the season--NE gets home games against the Bills and then the Jets (and they got their annual AFC East loss out of their system already), and PIT plays in Houston and then hosts the Browns. If we assume they both win out against that schedule, then the winner of next week's game gets the top seed in the AFC; Pittsburgh leads the AFC by two games if they beat the Pats, while a Pats victory leaves the two teams tied with NE owning the head-to-head tiebreaker. The only thing this loss buys for Pittsburgh is that they can lose the NE game and then take the top seed if they win out and NE drops one of their last two games and Pittsburgh wins out.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 9:19am

What it does change is that the Jags are still very much alive for the first round bye. They should be pulling hard for the Steelers next week. I believe the Jacksonville would have the conference record tie-breaker over New England.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 9:50am

You are correct. Jax holds the tiebreaker over NE regardless of record from here on out.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 12:50pm

Man, Jacksonville really let a #1 seed slip away. OT loss to NYJ and last-second loss to Blaine Gabbert-led Cardinals.

by morganja :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 11:58am

Which would set the Patriots up for a playoff game against the Bills. That's two more chances for a Bill defender to get Gronked.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 9:23am

The Steelers are now one game ahead in the loss column, so if they lose to the Patriots, but the Patriots lose just one of their last two, the Steelers get HFA by winning their last two. Do I expect the Patriots to lose at home to the Jets or Bills? No, but it wouldn't be the most shocking upset, either.

(Edit) never mind, read you wrong

by morganja :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 11:49am

Historically, Brady does play poorly in Miami. Why?

The answer is obvious.

The Patriots don't understand the Ideal Gas Law. They under-inflate the footballs for New England climate, but don't take into account the different pressure in southern Florida.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 12:47pm

Gotta admit, this was pretty good.

by Anon Ymous :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 1:02pm

If by "pretty good" you mean "tired and unfunny" I agree.

by dmstorm22 :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 1:15pm

Come on, you guys won the Super Bowl the year he got suspended.

I think its time to start laughing about this. No fanbase more so than New England who got the last laugh.

by Guest789 :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 1:18pm

If by "tired and unfunny" you mean "pretty good" I agree.

by morganja :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 1:19pm

No sense of humor is New England today. Does everyone get all Belichicky up there after a loss?
Does the homicide rate spike after people ask questions like "Do you feel like the Patriots were looking ahead to the Pittsburgh game?" and "Are you looking forward to Christmas this year?"

by eagle97a :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 10:33pm

You probably meant the different temperature since the atmospheric pressure of the two locations are roughly equal being at sea level. With that said good one.

by Cheesehead_Canuck :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 11:50am

Steelers clinch HFA with a win on Sunday and a Jacksonville loss.
Patriots fall to 3 with a loss and a Jacksonville win.
Patriots don't clinch HFA with a win but it would be all but certain with home games against Bills and Jets after.
AFC is pretty straightforward compared to all the scenarios that could happen in the NFC.

This is one of the only times I'll willingly cheer for Pittsburgh.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 11:56am

Look, the Patriots beating the Jets and Bills at home is certainly the strong probability, but, gosh, the degree to which sports fans consistently overstate what "certain" or "all but certain" entails is always puzzling.

by Cheesehead_Canuck :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 2:46pm

I'm just saying the probability of the winner of the NE-Pitt game getting the #1 seed is incredibly high.

by Will Allen :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 2:56pm

Yeah, to me, "incredibly high" means at least a 99% probability, maybe you could argue me down to 95%. I don't think the Patriots even get within shouting distance of that probability of winning both those games.

by jmaron :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 5:44pm

well 538 ELO rating says the odds of the Pat winning their last two games is roughly 74%

people tend to underestimate underdog chances to win in general, but they grossly over rate the odds of good teams winning multiple games against weak teams

by Eddo :: Tue, 12/12/2017 - 8:46pm

Why the "but"? The two clauses in your final sentence are saying the same thing (the general public tends to overestimate the chances of good teams winning games, be it one or several).

by Will Allen :: Wed, 12/13/2017 - 1:48am

I think it is just a statement about how poorly the general public grasps probabilities, in this case two events which have the same outcome.

by Eddo :: Wed, 12/13/2017 - 4:08pm

Yes, but grammatically, the clauses do not contradict each other.

It would be like saying, "The public underestimates the odds the Eagles will lose to the Giants, but overestimates the odds the Eagles will beat both the Giants and the Cowboys."

The "but" should be an "and".

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