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» Defense and Rest Time

Do defenses really wear out over the course of a game? Do defenses benefit from long drives that give them more time to rest on the sideline? Guest columnist Ben Baldwin investigates.

25 Sep 2017

Audibles at the Line: Week 3

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 e-mails and produce this feature. By its nature, it can be disjointed and dissimilar to the other articles on the site.

While these e-mails are generally written with Audibles in mind, they do not represent a standard review of all the games each week. That means we aren't going to cover every game, or every important play. We watch the games that we, as fans, are interested in watching, so your favorite team's game might not be covered to your fullest desires or even at all. (If you are a Steelers or Patriots fan, you are probably in luck; if you are a Bills fan, not so much.) We have no intention of adding new authors 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.

(Ed. Note: We know that players protesting racism and the President during the national anthem was a huge story from yesterday's games. We're going to stick to our "no politics" policy and not discuss those protests in Audibles. We ask that you please do the same and we will delete comments that attempt to turn this from a discussion of football to a discussion of the protests. There are plenty of places on the Internet to discuss the protests, and we want this to be a place to discuss the football on the field. Members of the FO staff have strong opinions about the protests as well, but we will share and discuss those opinions on our personal Twitter accounts rather than in this discussion thread. -- Aaron Schatz)

Baltimore Ravens 7 "at" Jacksonville Jaguars 44 (London)

Bryan Knowles: Yeah, early London game! Yeah! Yeah!


Man, I'm tired. But the show must go on.

Andrew Potter: Just in case you had any doubt what we're in for here, Jason Myers starts the game by kicking off out of bounds.

Charles McDonald: Going back to bed, see y'all at 1!

Bryan Knowles: This Jaguars "home in London" experiment doesn't seem to be working so hot. The crowd is a sea of purple. London fans prefer Tower of London guards to luxury vehicles, apparently.

Andrew Potter: Mistakes aplenty early on, but the biggest of them might have been the most innocuous. Sam Koch's second punt of the game comes to rest at the Jags' 4-yard line, but the first Ravens player to touch it had gone out of bounds, so play resumes from the 20 instead. Ridiculous error, given he had no need whatsoever to touch it. Eight plays later, Marcedes Lewis hauls in a pass down the right sideline to put the Jags up by 10.

Baltimore has gone three-and-out twice, didn't even take the Jags to third down on that last drive, and generally looks like a team that is still sleeping.

Make that three three-and-outs in their opening three drives. Joe Flacco has two sacks and no completions.

Bryan Knowles: The Ravens allowed 10 points in their first two games. The Jags have put up 10 points here in the first quarter. Blake Bortles made some really nice throws on the touchdown drive, including a nice double-fake (play-action and end-around) on the touchdown drive itself.

The Jaguars have 148 yards on their first two drives. The Ravens have -1 on their first three.

Bryan Knowles: One reason the Ravens might be having trouble? Weakness on the defensive line. Brandon Williams is still in the U.S. with a foot injury, and Brent Urban has had to leave the field as well. That's allowing the Jacksonville offensive line to win at the point of attack, and they actually have a running back now who can take advantage of that.

I haven't seen the loss of Marshal Yanda effecting the offense as much, but that might be because the Ravens' offense has barely been on the field to this point.

Tom Gower: One of the key issues for teams whose offensive game plan relies a lot on staying in favorable game script situations is success on early-down passes. The Jaguars were extremely effective on first and second down passes against the Texans, and very ineffective on those passes against the Titans. This week, they've come out throwing on early downs early in the game, and with a lot of success.

Bryan Knowles: The Ravens' offense has been putrid today -- four three-and-outs and an interception. They had negative yards in the first quarter; the Jags hadn't held anyone to negative yards in any quarter since they played the 0-16 Detroit Lions back in 2008. And now Jeremy Maclin is hurt, which will really help you jump-start a sputtering offense.

Scott Kacsmar: It's halftime and Joe Flacco's success rate is 1-of-14 (a 4-yard completion to Benjamin Watson on a second-and-3.) I think I woke up 90 minutes too early today.

Rivers McCown: I hope someone wakes Joe Flacco up, too.

Andrew Potter: That tackle of Telvin Smith on the fumble return is the most productive thing Joe Flacco has done today.

Everything I expected the Ravens to do to the Jaguars on defense, the Jaguars have been doing to the Ravens.

With Ryan Mallett now in the game, Joe Flacco is done for the day. He finishes 8-of-18 for 28 yards with two interceptions. That's the lowest yardage figure for any quarterback with at least ten attempts and multiple interceptions since Bruce Gradkowski for Cleveland against Pittsburgh in 2008 -- which was also the last time any quarterback threw at least ten passes, at least two interceptions, and gained fewer than 30 yards. That's only happened five times, total, since 2000. (Joey Harrington managed exactly 30 for the 2003 Lions.)

Only two men have ever thrown for fewer yards with at least eight completions. Len Dawson went 8-of-13 for 23 yards for the 1960 Browns against the Cowboys, and Randy Dean was 8-of-14 for 24 yards, one touchdown, and one pick for the 1978 Giants against the St. Louis Cardinals. Flacco is the only one of those with multiple interceptions.

Scott Kacsmar: Every Jacksonville game has been a total blowout this year. Not sure what to make of that, especially since they're on the winning side twice now.

Rivers McCown: I think you look at it and think that when the Jaguars get a positive game script, they're a very tough team to play against. The corners are great, the pass rush is much better, and they can run time off the clock. You probably wouldn't trust Bortles to lead a comeback or anything, but that's a winning formula in many games.

Bryan Knowles: Yes, that game was definitely worth waking up early for. Thanks, NFL!

Aaron Schatz: Baltimore's "No. 1 defense" getting slammed today sort of highlights the question of whether I need to be including opponent adjustments in DVOA early in the season. Yes, the Bengals and Browns offenses look like they're both terrible. But if we did adjustments based on either preseason projections or 2016 performance, the Bengals offense would come out pretty close to average, and so it wouldn't really adjust the Ravens' rating for that game in any way. We could do adjustments based on the first two games of the year, but is that enough evidence to decide that a team is particularly easy or hard to play against? Even if you create opponent adjustments, they necessarily have to be weak early in the season because there's so much we still don't know about how good or bad teams really are.

I also have a feeling Vince and I will be doing a lot of work with "worst offensive DVOA in a game" and "worst quarterback performance." But Flacco isn't going to end up near the bottom of the all-time DYAR lists with only two picks.

Vince Verhei: Forget about one of the worst games of all time -- Flacco might not end up with the worst game of the week. Jay Cutler, Mike Glennon, Cam Newton ... lots of bad quarterback games today. And Josh McCown's not one of them!

Confession: aside from a handful of highlights, I have not seen Jacksonville play this year. But they have been stacking defensive talent for years, and you take out the second half against Tennessee, and they have given up 20 points in their other ten quarters. Now you pair that with the possibility that they have finally figured out how to get Garbage Time Blake for 60 minutes, and that's a very scary proposition for the rest of the league.

Aaron Schatz: I understand that today is a data point in favor of Mr. Bortles, but I'm going to bet that the first of your suppositions is correct and the second is not.

New Orleans Saints 34 at Carolina Panthers 13

Bryan Knowles: Carolina had yet another long drive to open the game -- 8:41. And again, they settled for a field goal.

They now have five six-minute or longer drives this season, most in the league. And every single one has ended up with a field goal. That's less than ideal -- you've got to capitalize when you have the ball. It hasn't mattered yet, as their defense only gave up six points combined in their first two games, but at some point...

The interesting thing about New Orleans in this game isn't the passing game -- shocking bulletin, Drew Brees can throw the football -- but the running game. The Saints have 71 yards on the ground, up against a defense that was averaging just 60 yards allowed through the first two weeks.

We did get what's becoming our Weekly Odd Strategic Decision from Sean Payton at the half, though:

On second-and-goal from the 8, with 38 seconds left and all three timeouts remaining, Brees is sacked at the 15. It seems like the logical decision here is to wait a few seconds for the clock to tick down, and then call a timeout. That way, you can run any play you want on third down -- if you throw it short and are stopped, you can call a timeout and kick the field goal. If there's a defensive penalty and you get a new set of downs, you have time left to try to score again. It maximizes your chances to score. Instead, Payton lets the clock tick down to just 7 seconds, which basically limits them to "one quick shot at the end zone." It falls incomplete, and the Saints settle for the field goal. 17-6 New Orleans at the half.

New York Giants 24 at Philadelphia Eagles 27

Bryan Knowles: The Eagles are attempting to shake up their offensive line, starting Chance Warmack instead of Isaac Seumalo at left guard. So far, not so good. Jay Bromley blew him up for a sack on Philly's second drive, with Warmack being backpedaled a good 5 or 6 yards into the backfield.

Darren Sproles took a big shot to his knee and hit the ground hard. He was able to walk off after several minutes, clutching his knee and wrist. I guess that means we'll be seeing a heavy dose of LeGarrette Blount the rest of the way, which bodes worse for the Eagles' passing attack than it does for their rushing game.

Pittsburgh Steelers 17 at Chicago Bears 23 (OT)

Scott Kacsmar: Steelers are having one of their "playing down to the competition" days in the first quarter. On the very first play from scrimmage, Ben Roethlisberger missed a 75-yard touchdown to Martavis Bryant by a few inches. Eli Rogers later muffed a punt, leading to the run-heavy Bears getting a touchdown run from Jordan Howard.

Ben Roethlisberger gave up the ball again on a strip-sack where he held the ball too long, and Ramon Foster injured his wrist on that play. The Bears missed a good shot to go up 10-0 when Connor Barth missed a 47-yard field goal. Mike Glennon dropbacks are about the only thing helping the defense out, as he had a broken play and hasn't looked good so far.

But the Steelers still aren't blocking well for Le'Veon Bell, and Roethlisberger's best throw has been getting a pass interference flag. He tried to get another one deep to Antonio Brown, and Marcus Cooper did bump him, but there was disagreement among the refs. They ended up using the rarely used "uncatchable pass" call to wave off the flag. Expecting referees to consistently use uncatchable is a pipe dream, but I'm surprised that was the case there. If this game was in Pittsburgh, you may have seen that flag stand.

Vince Verhei: Oh my God, we just had a Leon Lett play in Chicago. Bears block a field goal at the end of the half, and Marcus Cooper looks like he's got an easy touchdown to go up 21-0. But he throws on the breaks short of the goal line, almost comes to a complete stop, and two Steelers (including the kicker!) run him down from behind and swat the ball away, a full yard short of the goal line. There's a loose ball and the ball is batted out of the end zone and there's all sorts of confusion and an official's review now. The players started to walk off the field and were then waved back in. Nobody has any idea what's going on. And finally it's ruled Chicago's ball at the half-yard line for an untimed down. The Steelers are running back out of the locker room.

OK, the Bears are running a play -- but there's a false start. Now they're kicking the field goal, and it's good, and the Bears are up 17-7.

All of this could have been avoided if Cooper had taken one more step. If you told me he had money riding on Pittsburgh I might believe you.

Scott Kacsmar: So Marcus Cooper had one of the all-time bonehead plays before halftime. Bears blocked a field goal and Cooper had a nice, long touchdown ahead of him. He slowed down yards short of the end zone, and Vance McDonald caught up in time to knock the ball out. Jordan Berry really should have just dove on the ball and it wouldn't have cost the Steelers anything instead of batting it out of bounds for a penalty. But after some confusion, the Bears were given a first down (untimed play) at the 1-yard line. John Fox actually had the offense out, but a false start made the field goal an easy decision. Bears lead 17-7 and the Steelers are checking most of the boxes on their big road game no-show.

Vince Verhei: Chicago's game-winning overtime drive:

  • Howard run for 1 yard.
  • Cohen run for apparent 73-yard game-winning touchdown, reviewed and changed to gain of 36 because Cohen's pinkie toe hit the sideline.
  • Howard run for 18 yards.
  • Howard run for 19 yards, touchdown, game over.

That sure looked easy.

Houston Texans 33 at New England Patriots 36

Aaron Schatz: So far, the Houston Texans are matching the Patriots on the road. The Texans defense is really good, and the Patriots defense looks weak again today. The Patriots offensive line is also an issue. Nate Solder has been dealing with a hamstring issue; he's playing, but not at 100 percent. Marcus Cannon is out, which leads to LaAdrian Waddle trying to block J.J. Watt (and sometimes Jadeveon Clowney). That's not a good thing.

However, Deshaun Watson did his best to equalize things, throwing the ball directly to Stephon Gilmore. He was 2 or 3 yards ahead of DeAndre Hopkins. Some kind of miscommunication there? Did he expect Hopkins to curl? The Patriots get an easy touchdown a couple of plays later when Jonathan Joseph trips over another Texans defender's feet as he's trying to follow Chris Hogan from left to right, leaving Hogan wide open in the end zone. 14-10 Patriots.

Watson's ability to avoid pressure in the backfield is excellent. On one play he must have scrambled 10 or 15 yards backwards, avoiding tackles, but still had his eyes downfield and found Stephen Anderson for a 0-yard gain (which is better than a sack or an intentional grounding flag). On another play he found a receiver while getting taken to the ground on third-and-10, although the completion was short of the sticks and the Texans had to kick a field goal. 14-13 Patriots.

The rest of the half in Foxborough continues the themes of the first half. The Texans' defensive front is dominating the Patriots offensive line, especially with Nate Solder clearly not right. Whitney Mercilus just ran right around him for a strip sack on Brady, recovered by Jadeveon Clowney for a strip-six. When the Patriots can keep Brady upright, he's finding guys. Chris Hogan scored a big 47-yard touchdown when he was wide open due to some sort of blown zone coverage. Meanwhile, the Houston offense gets some good runs and it seems nearly impossible to actually sack Deshaun Watson because of his escapability, but he also may not be aware he has other wide receivers besides DeAndre Hopkins, so there are no sustained drives. 21-20 Patriots at the half.

By the way, we're having one of those weird games like Washington-Cincinnati last year where the refs just hammer on one penalty. John Parry's crew has called four defensive holding flags on Houston in one half. Last year, in the entire season, the Texans had five. Parry's crew last year called only 18, roughly average.

Vince Verhei: Patriots lead 21-20 at halftime, but this is still a very good example of what I was expecting from Houston when I picked them to be most likely to beat their DVOA projection. The secondary has mostly been beaten, especially on that blown coverage play, but the front seven is creating so much havoc up front it mostly balances out. Watson had the one brain-dead interception, but has made big plays with his arm (mostly a 29-yard touchdown to Bruce Ellington) and his legs (a team-high 27 rushing yards, including a third-and-5 conversion, plus all the avoided sacks) to keep the Texans hanging tough.

Aaron Schatz: I don't know if we can find this in a GIF or video somewhere but Ryan Griffin made a little move to twist and catch the ball behind him for a touchdown that was outstanding. Texans go for the extra point instead of going for 2 to tie. 28-27 Patriots.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: We can!)

Vince Verhei: I'm not a big believer in Bill O'Brien (and kicking that point is just one reason why) but I love the schemes he's using to maximize Watson's strengths and hide his weaknesses. Lots of pistol and shotgun formations so Watson never has to take his eyes off the defense. Lots of play-action and motion to slow down the pass rush and give him an extra fraction of a second in the pocket. There are still times when he looks like he has no idea what he's doing, But he's also making the kind of scrambling, across-the-field throws that only a select few quarterbacks can even try.

Aaron Schatz: Interesting decision by the Texans. They looked like they might have sacked Tom Brady on third-and-21 at the Houston 46, but he flipped the ball to Gronk, who got it to the Houston 38. A successful challenge would have made it fourth down for the Patriots around their own 45. But here's the thing ... the Patriots had already brought out the punt team. They were not going to have Stephen Gostkowski try a 56-yard field goal. So the Texans essentially were trying to move the Patriots back into what might have been an easier position to punt from. They lost the challenge, so the Patriots had to punt from the 38 and Ryan Allen hit it too far and it was a touchback. Losing the challenge might have helped Houston in field position. But they also might need that timeout later that they lost with the challenge.

Vince Verhei: Remember the "Houdini?" When quarterbacks break a tackle in the backfield to escape a sack? Deshaun Watson just had three, maybe four on one play, slipping out of tackles over and over again to find an open receiver and convert a first-and-20, deep in his own territory. There's a flag down and I figure it's got to be offensive holding and all for naught, but the flag is on New England, declined, first down. That was just insane.

The Texans get a fourth-and-1 inside the red zone. They have run for 125 yards on the day -- and they kick the field goal to go up 33-28. Because why wouldn't you give Tom Brady a chance to beat you with a touchdown and two-plus minutes to go?

Aaron Schatz: They gave Brady a chance, and he took the chance. I'm not going to recount the play-by-play of the Patriots' last drive -- that's Scott's job for Tuesday -- but the last two plays were absolutely phenomenal. Brady had Texas pass-rushers practically inside his jersey. Watt was clearly gassed after the first pass (to Danny Amendola), but that's OK, I think it was Mercilus the second time. Amendola caught the first pass in traffic for a 27-yard gain on third-and-18. Then the next pass to Brandin Cooks on the left side of the end zone, he did a great job to tap his feet down and hold onto the ball as he fell out of bounds. On replay it looked like the ground might have "helped" him hold onto it, but there was not enough clear evidence to overturn.

Hell of a comeback, but the Patriots have serious problems to address. The offensive line has to get healthy. Injured Nate Solder is probably better than the alternative (healthy Cameron Fleming) but it isn't a good. The Patriots are also throwing deep too often and not enough of the whips and short crosses that are their bread-and-butter. On defense, it's hard to tell how much of the problem is the defense overall, how much is Dont'a Hightower being injured specifically, and how much today was just Deshaun Watson playing out of his gourd. I come away so impressed by him. He makes some bad mistakes with throws, and hopefully he can improve on that. But his escapability is crazy good, and more important, he escapes sacks and then looks downfield and tries to find a receiver open. It's not just tuck-and-run. The scramble drill stuff today was Aaron Rodgers-level amazing.

Rivers McCown: There are finally reasons for optimism with Watson's performance, but I would like to see it happen against a better defense. I was struggling to understand what his star-caliber talent was going to be, for lack of a better term. If he can adjust himself to buy time in the pocket like he did today, that could be it.

Going for the field goal against Tom Brady on their final drive was a coward's decision. That was a bigger flub to me than their clock management.

Denver Broncos 16 at Buffalo Bills 26

Derrik Klassen: Once again, Trevor Siemian looks nice. He has not done anything supernatural, but he is consistently hitting the open throws and giving his receivers a chance on back-shoulder plays. Generally avoiding mistakes, too, and even staying away from pressure in the pocket. He looks competent enough for the Denver Broncos to stay alive throughout the season.

Vince Verhei: Steven Hauschka hits his second 50-plus-yard field goal of the game to put Buffalo ahead 23-16 in a game I wish I had paid more attention to throughout the day. I saw Jamaal Charles get some big plays for Denver, so he's still dangerous. Tyrod Taylor made some big plays on a third-quarter touchdown drive, including an I-will-run-no-I-will-pass touchdown to Charles Clay, who came wide open as the defense chased Taylor into the flat. And the Bills sniffed out and snuffed a fake punt to set up that second Hauschka field goal.

Derrik Klassen: Well, the pass rush finally got to Trevor Siemian. Two ugly interceptions under pressure in the second half, this one possibly sealing the Broncos fate. Bills with the ball up 23-16 in the 4th quarter.

Vince Verhei: No Fun League alert: Von Miller hits Tyrod Taylor on an incomplete pass. He then extends a hand to help Taylor up, but when Taylor reaches up, Miller pulls his hand away. Miller's laughing. Taylor's laughing. Ref throws a flag, unsportsmanlike conduct, 15 yards and a first down. I think that was on third down too.

Atlanta Falcons 30 at Detroit Lions 26

Tom Gower: Started off a weird kind of game, with Atlanta not touching the ball for the fourth time until after the two-minute warning. But they ended up with five total possessions, after the fourth drive ended not only short of another score by them but with Detroit's first touchdown of the game, with Glover Quin jumping a pass in the middle of the field and taking it for a score. Atlanta's other four possessions all ended with Falcons points on the board. It felt like the offense was kind of hinky, as they started off not with the same first-down success they had when they were so great there last year, but they made enough plays on second and then when they did make it to third down to keep the chains moving and get into scoring territory. Devonta Freeman had his normal moments of great outside-zone work and added a good catch in traffic downfield to convert a third-and-long, while the Lions had their normal annoying reliance on short gains. Atlanta's speed on defense didn't let the Lions break anything, so they eventually got to a point where they couldn't execute as often as they needed to, so thus the 20-13 lead for the defending South champs.

Bryan Knowles: Matt Ryan is letting the Lions back into this one. He has now throw two interceptions, resulting in 10 points for Detroit and a 23-23 tie. The second interception probably should have ended up going into the end zone, too, but the Lions' offense continued to sputter, failing to pick up a first down despite starting on Atlanta's 21-yard line.

Ryan hadn't thrown an interception since Week 13 of last season, but the pressure is getting there today and forcing him to make some bad throws.

Falcons ran a nice little play to re-gain the lead. We slag on wide receiver screens a lot (because they don't usually work), but the Falcons actually did more than just throw the ball out to Taylor Gabriel and hope. They ran a fake to the right, and nearly every Lions defender on the field followed the play in that direction. Ryan turned around and threw back across the field to Gabriel, who had a fairly easy 40-yard run for a score. Don't just screen, scheme!

Make that three interceptions for Ryan on the day. I swear, if the Lions get yet another fourth-quarter comeback I am going to eat my hat.

Tom Gower: Ryan's second two interceptions both went off Falcons receivers and probably should have been caught. That's bad luck, not bad play. Falcons finally have to punt late in the fourth quarter, and after what I thought was a curious decision on third down. It's third-and-6, but Atlanta goes spread and looks for the quick pass. Worried about deflected passes, they have both tackles cut block. When Ryan doesn't get what he sees quickly, he has to hurry his process and get the ball out ASAP because he knows they were cut blocking and he wouldn't have as much time as he normally would. Quick checkdown only gets 3 yards, and punting. On a shorter third down, I'd get it, but I don't think you see many teams cut on third-and-medium like that. Lions go three-and-out on their next chance, though, and punt it down four with three minutes to go and all three timeouts.

Bryan Knowles: High drama at the end of the game!

The Lions strategy of trail, trail, trail and then have a fourth-quarter comeback continues to come into play. Stafford leads the Lions down the field, helped by a couple crucial penalties on Desmond Trufant (a holding which wiped off an interception, a pass interference in the end zone), and the Lions come back YET AGAIN with a Golden Tate touchdown with 8 seconds left...

... except no! The replay review overturns it, saying Tate's down inside the 1. And, because the clock would have been running, there's a ten-second runoff. Game over, Falcons win. What a finish.

Charles McDonald: Lions and Falcons ... wow. Not sure what to say, but the Falcons tried their hardest to lose.

Scott Kacsmar: It's almost 8 p.m. and I'm still struggling to remember that Atlanta actually won today. It was the right call on Tate, but wow, what a tough ending.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 17 at Minnesota Vikings 34

Aaron Schatz: Hat tip to Lisa Edwards from NFL Network from pointing this out when we were looking at scores at halftime ... Case Keenum kind of owns the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. I mean, I think she overstated it but the Rams were 2-0 against Tampa with Keenum starting and he had a 158 passer rating (!!!) in the Rams' 31-23 win over Tampa Bay in 2015.

Scott Kacsmar: Have we ever looked to see if week to week variance is higher in today's NFL compared to those pre-cap years or even the early 2000s? I mean, look at this turnaround from Week 2 to today (so far).

Buccaneers demolished the Bears 29-7, and Pittsburgh beat the Vikings 26-9. Today, the Steelers are down 17-7 in Chicago and look pretty bad. The Vikings are up 28-10 on the Buccaneers, and it's not like Sam Bradford came back to replace Case Keenum. Home-road switched for all four of these teams, but that alone shouldn't be enough for this.

I guess what I'm asking is are the average weekly DVOA swings (in absolute value) greater than ever before? Just seems like teams do a 180 from the previous week so often now. At this rate, the Steelers and Ravens will play a 45-42 shootout in Week 4.

Aaron Schatz: VARIANCE in DVOA measures the variance of each week's DVOA over the entire 16-game season, not specifically from one week to the next. But I went and looked and if DVOA is to be believed, the opposite is actually true. This is only four seasons, obviously, but here's the average VARIANCE all 28 teams (1988-1989) and then all 32 teams (2015-2016):

1988: 14.4%
1989: 15.8%

2015: 12.9%
2016: 11.7%

Just to give an example of a similar back-and-forth from 25 years ago, here's the schedule for the 1989 Cincinnati Bengals from Week 8 to Week 16. Final DVOA rank in parentheses.

  • 56-23 win vs. Tampa Bay (21)
  • 28-7 loss at L.A. Raiders (14)
  • 26-24 loss at Houston (20)
  • 42-7 win vs. Detroit (19)
  • 24-7 loss at Buffalo (7)
  • 21-0 win at Cleveland (2)
  • 24-17 loss vs. Seattle (25)
  • 61-7 win vs. Houston (20)
  • 29-21 loss at Minnesota (5)

Andrew Potter: Brent Grimes, Kwon Alexander, Chris Baker, and Jacquies Smith are all inactive for this game, and Robert Ayers and Noah Spence have left with injuries. (Spence has just returned.) It's a whole lot easier to pass protect when your opponent is missing four of its top five pass-rushers. Alexander's replacement, Kendall Beckwith, is a run-stuffer rather than a three-down linebacker. Grimes is by far the team's top corner. Tampa Bay has a lot of top-end talent, but this game won't alleviate concerns about their depth -- particularly in the secondary.

Now Gerald McCoy is questionable to return with an ankle injury. Yikes.

Seattle Seahawks 27 at Tennessee Titans 33

Vince Verhei: So, the first quarter is over here.

  • Eight total punts, four for each team. That includes five total punts in the first five minutes.
  • Four three-and-outs for Tennessee, three for Seattle.
  • Russell Wilson has had his best pass protection all season but has been missing throws. He had a clean pocket and Doug Baldwin open for about 20 yards easy and overthrew him.
  • Titans finally start driving at the end of the quarter, thanks in large part to Richard Sherman committing DPI, holding, and a personal foul all on one play, negating a Kam Chancellor interception. This only made Sherman more angry, and he was chasing officials to shout at them and I'm honestly surprised he wasn't ejected.

Bryan Knowles: Credit where credit is due; Seattle's offensive line is looking much better this week than they have at any other point this season. But Jimmy Graham dropped a pass, Russell Wilson overthrew Doug Baldwin twice, and they've fumbled a snap. Five drives, four three-and-outs and five punts.

And now Sherman is scrapping yet again. A late hit (though far from the worst I've ever seen) on Marcus Mariota gets both sides yelling and up in each other's face on the sideline. A second unsportsmanlike call would get Sherman ejected; someone needs to calm him down or that's going to happen here.

Vince Verhei: Titans kick another field goal to go up 6-0. They have already run 15 more plays than Seattle though, and an a very hot day, the Seahawks really need to control some clock here just their defense isn't on the field all day again.

Derrik Klassen: Seattle scores a touchdown inside the two-minute warning -- the first touchdown from either team today. Russell Wilson finally looked like himself on the drive. Wilson threw two downfield dimes, one to Doug Baldwin and the other to C.J. Prosise, and capped the drive off with a tight-window throw to Baldwin for a touchdown.

Tennessee then drove down the field with the time remaining in the half and kicked a field goal. Marcus Mariota fit a handful of nice throws to get them into field goal position. Tennessee now leads 9-7 heading into the locker room.

Vince Verhei: The teams trade three-and-outs, with an apparent punt return touchdown for Tennessee called back on a block in the back penalty. Then Wilson hits Doug Baldwin and C.J. Prosise for back-to-back big plays down the left sideline, and gets into the end zone with a beautiful low fastball just in front of the pylon. They tried a pass to Jimmy Graham on second down, but he wasn't open, and Wilson threw the ball out of bounds rather than risk a jump-ball play.

Titans take over with 1:15 left, but only have one timeout left. And ... they end up kicking a field goal to go up 9-7 at halftime. But they spiked the ball on second down, ran a sideline route on third down, and went into the half with the timeout in their pocket. Seems like they missed out on an opportunity for a shot to the end zone there, or at least make the field goal closer (it was good, but it was a 47-yarder, hardly automatic).

Derrik Klassen: The way Tennessee is playing offense right now does not seem sustainable. Mariota has already thrown 26 passes for just 129 yards, being held to 5.0 yards per attempt. On the ground, the Titans have 30 yards on 17 attempts. Derrick Henry is even in the negative with -6 yards on 4 carries. Seattle has stifled the Titans on the ground, particularly on perimeter runs, and have not allowed big plays in the passing game. They have to generate bigger plays versus this defense. Even though the Seahawks offense is not looking great right now, constant field goals will not cut it for the Titans.

Tom Gower: Seems we have this game well-covered, but I'll chime in anyway.

Titans up 9-7 at the half. Seattle has helped them move the ball on offense, as they had more first downs by penalty (four) than otherwise (three, all passing), until the drive after Seattle's touchdown that Vince mentioned. Seahawks offense couldn't get anything going, but they missed opportunities in the passing game. Wilson finally hit a couple downfield passes on the touchdown drive, both up the left sideline. Both also looked like why I don't like the Titans in Cover-1, which they like to play, that much. Without an Earl Thomas-type back there, you end up basically playing man, and the Titans aren't good enough in man. LeShaun Sims was the culprit on the first play, and rookie linebacker Jayon Brown the second play. C.J. Prosise beat Brown at the line of scrimmage with an inside fake, and then it was just a question of whether Seattle's line could hold up and whether Wilson would see and hit the throw.

Titans offense ... except for Mariota, they have 14 rushes for 18 yards. The bloom is off Derrick Henry, with four carries for -6 yards, while Mariota was averaging under 4.5 yards per attempt. They seem deathly scared of Seattle's pass rush, keeping seven and even eight players in not just on early downs when they normally do but in obvious passing situations where they've often been more "normal." As long as the game stays close, they'll continue to do what they do, and I'll continue to tear my hair out and watch it go gray while it happens. You "can't" run the two-minute offense every down -- Seattle was a bit conservative on defense -- but they play in a way that requires them to do at least one, and often both, of (a) repeated successful plays and (b) Mariota bailing them out on third-and-long, and the base passing offense has been bad most of this year that saying they should spend the whole game in their passing offense in especially unfavorable matchups like this one seems not-unreasonable. And don't ask me why they've given so many snaps to Eric Weems over, say, Taywan Taylor (I mean that more in the existential why). But, hey, they're leading, so everything's great.

Bryan Knowles: Exotic Smashmouth (noun): Line up your backup tight end (Jonnu Smith) at fullback, fake a handoff and an end-around, and then find said fullback/tight end for a 24-yard touchdown. 23-14 Tennessee.

Vince Verhei: Seahawks opened the second half with a touchdown drive to take the lead and it felt like they were finally pulling away. Uh, no. Titan respond with three straight touchdowns to go up 30-14 by the end of the third. The biggest plays were Rishard Matthews' 55-yard touchdown on a wide receiver screen, and DeMarco Murray's 75-yard touchdown run. On both plays, the runners weren't just running away from the defense or making guys miss, they were getting blocks from fullbacks, receivers, linemen all the way down the field. Looked like they're running a relay or something.

Titans do run a lot of fun plays. I like the zone read they ran with Mariota, where they somehow had a lead blocker when the quarterback kept the ball.

Tom Gower: Titans up 30-14 after three quarters. Seattle started the second half like they finished the first, with passing efficiency ending in the end zone. But that was that, and third downs, both getting there in good situations and converting in bad ones, have been an issue since. Tennessee, meanwhile, showed why they like their offense, scoring thrice on as many possessions. Two were all or mostly single plays, a 55-yard Rishard Matthews receiver screen and a 75-yard DeMarco Murray run. The Murray run is interesting in some details -- the Titans were in heavy personnel and Dennis Kelly, the extra lineman lined up as play-side tight end, blocked down, but they pulled tackle Taylor Lewan (athletic tackles can be useful). He got outside of Kam Chancellor, K.J. Wright tried to catch DeMarco Murray from behind instead of going over the top and conceding some yardage, and fullback Jalston Fowler had blocks both at the point of attack and way downfield. But I never know how useful it is to write up plays like that in Audibles.

Bryan Knowles: I think you hit the nail on the head earlier, Vince, when you said Seattle had to control some clock. The Titans held nearly a nine-minute time of possession edge in the first half, and it's pretty darn hot and humid in Nashville today. Seattle's normally excellent defense feels like it's missing a little something.

Vince Verhei: Trailing 33-20, Seahawks nearly score again on what looks like a spectacular Paul RIchardson box-out catch in the end zone, but he can't reel in the ball. We then get a time-out on second-and-10 to avoid a delay of game; intentional grounding for a loss of 17 (!!!); dumpoff to Jimmy Graham; and an incomplete Hail Mary on fourth-and-22 with more than 7 minutes to go. It was the grounding play that killed everything. Wesley Woodyard (who has had a great game) comes unblocked off the edge. That's bad, but Russell Wilson makes the absolute worst of the situation by continuing to run straight back and just lobbing the ball blindly to the right. There was no wiggle or dodge at all there, just running in a straight line the wrong way.

The defense responds with a three-and-out, so the game's not over-over, but Seattle has the ball, down 13 with two timeouts and just over five minutes to go.

Richardson gets a touchdown to make it 33-27 with 1:50 to go, with Seattle having two timeouts. But Delanie Walker cleanly fields the onside kick, and that should be ballgame barring something really screwy.

Can't say enough about the performance of Tennessee's offensive line today. It took a while to pay off in results, especially in the running game, but they absolutely controlled things today. No sacks for Seattle -- no HITS for Seattle -- on 32 Mariota dropbacks.

Oh, and it's only one timeout for Seattle due to an injury runoff right before the last touchdown. Fox missed that. So did I. So the Titans run three times and will have to punt with 11 seconds left. Wait, no they won't -- 12 men in the formation for Seattle, first down Tennessee, they will take a knee. Six first downs on penalties for the Tennessee offense today.

Tom Gower: Through three games, the Titans have called 26 pass plays on first and second downs in the first 28 minutes of the game. On those 26 plays, they have gained 68 yards, for an incredible 2.62 yards per play. They haven't been over 3.0 yards per those pass plays in any of the three games thus far. And for the second week in a row, it hasn't mattered thanks to huge plays on just those passes. Last week, a 17-yard completion to Delanie Walker before the Henry run and the bomb to Taywan Taylor down the sideline to set up the second touchdown. This week, the Rishard Matthews screen touchdown and the Jonnu Smith touchdown (also a nifty play design) were both early down plays. I'm generally of the opinion that halftime adjustments are overrated, and eventually there's likely to be some sort of unity between first-half early-down passing success and second-half early-down passing success, but until that happens, I'll keep tearing my hair out.

Cincinnati Bengals 24 at Green Bay Packers 27 (OT)

Aaron Schatz: The Bengals are somehow up on Green Bay 21-7. I started watching this near the end of the first quarter. I think in all of the excitement over Joe Mixon, we forgot that Giovani Bernard is also a good player. He's had a nice game so far, a nice 25-yard run and then a touchdown reception when the Packers defender who was supposed to cover him (Blake Martinez, I think) didn't.

Then, Aaron Rodgers threw a very un-Aaron Rodgers-like interception to a fully covered Jordy Nelson, returned by William Jackson for a pick-six. It was man coverage and Jackson just jumped on the route. Not something you see very often with Rodgers.

Rob Weintraub: Had to miss the first half on family duty. Sit down to see Cincy finally playing good ball. So of course literally the first play I see is a 51-yard gain to open the second half, and Pack are inside the 10. Never fails.

Aaron Schatz: Dre Kirkpatrick had a terrible tackle attempt on that huge reception by Lance Kendricks, which got it an extra 20 yards or so. And the Packers finish out the drive with Rogers finding an open Jordy Nelson in the back of the end zone to make it 21-14 Bengals.

Vince Verhei: Aaron Rodgers' 51-yard completion to Lance Kendricks on the first play of the second half needs to go in the pocket presence Hall of Fame. Drop back, step up, step back, step up, throw. Had both edge rushers on a string on that one.

Rob Weintraub: Rodgers rolls away from a blitz at the goal line, pulls up just before running for it and flips one for a wide open touchdown.

First-half Green Bay yards: 78.
First drive of second half yards: 75.

Carl Lawson and Chris Smith combine for a sack of Rodgers to force a punt. Both have been very impressive since becoming Bengals. Lawson you expect perhaps but Smith, who was plucked from the Jags for a bag of balls, has been a nice surprise.

Aaron Schatz: The Bengals are neutralizing some of their offensive line issues by having Andy Dalton throw very quick passes. Meanwhile, their pass rush is causing the Packers all kinds of problems -- six sacks so far through 40 minutes.

Rob Weintraub: The Bengals drafted Jake Elliott in the fifth round. He was cut for Randy Bullock, who just missed a kick from mid-40s. Elliott of course hit a 61-yard kick to win a game for the Eagles earlier today. Life as a Bengals fan.

Aaron Schatz: Worth noting that Carl Lawson's 2.5 sacks and constant pressure have mostly come against Kyle Murphy, a second-year sixth-round pick subbing for David Bakhtiari at left tackle.

It's hard to run out the clock with a lead if you can't run. Bengals in the first 20 minutes of the second half: four carries, 2 yards.

Rob Weintraub: Third-and-10, must-score drive for Cincy, and Dalton just flat doesn't see A.J. Green streaking wide open on a drag for an easy first down. Instead, his first read covered, he bails the pocket and winds up with an intentional grounding. Just so maddening.

21-17, not sure why I'm bothering to watch the rest -- Pack win is foreordained.

Bryan Knowles: It may also not be helpful that both Bengals safeties -- George Iloka and Shawn Williams -- left the field with injuries on that last drive. We'll see if either gets back in when the Packers next get the ball.

Rob Weintraub: Guys are cramping up left and right, which seems a time to mention that game time temperature was 89 degrees. At Lambeau. In late September. Chalk it up to climate cha--

(Electroshock collar goes off)

Aaron Schatz: LOL. I'll allow it.

So on third-and-1, Mixon slips in the backfield so instead of handing to him, Dalton ... turns around and tries to run straight ahead for a first down himself? That was awkward and so, so Bengals. However, Bullock hits the 46-yard field goal so we're now at 24-17, Bengals. 3:46 remaining.

Rob Weintraub: Bengals embark on pretty good clock-eating march, mostly thanks to Mixon. But on third-and-1 he slips coming out of his stance. Bullock hits this time.

24-17 with 3:46 left, and if you don't know what's coming you don't know Bengals football.

Bryan Knowles: Wait, did Cincinnati just use their final timeout icing the game-tying extra point, or did they just not line up properly? Either way, big blow -- there's 17 seconds left; they're going to get the ball back needing a field goal to win. That time out could come in handy!

Rob Weintraub: Rodgers marches the Pack down the field with contemptuous ease, hits Nelson with the touchdown to tie it with 17 seconds left.

Wow I am so shocked.

Overtime in Wisconsin and if you think Cincy rebounds to win now...

They then used another timeout before overtime even started. Hate my team.

Bryan Knowles: Another week, another Aaron Rodgers free play for huge yardage. Barring some kind of miracle, that's game.

Wow, Bengals.

Aaron Schatz: Of course Aaron Rodgers catches the Bengals in some sort of penalty for a free play, and then completes the pass anyway. The only part of that play that doesn't get an "of course" is when Geronimo Allison was elusive and made a couple of Bengals take bad angles so he could get extra yardage. Packers complete the comeback and win.

Rob Weintraub: Everything about this league is utterly unpredictable, except for my team finding ways to blow it.

Rivers McCown: Good adjustments by new offensive coordinator Bill Lazor here. Get the ball to Joe Mixon and A.J. Green quickly. The third-down play calling left a bit to be desired in the second half. Andy Dalton is still just Andy Dalton, but that wasn't news.

Aaron Rodgers did his thing with a damaged offensive line and a receiver corps that continues to feel a little pedestrian outside of Jordy Nelson. It felt like without Ty Montgomery doing well, the Bengals really clogged up the consistent offense that Green Bay could work with.

Kansas City Chiefs 24 at San Diego Chargers 10

Rivers McCown: I had this game on mute and every time I looked away from Bengals-Packers, I was watching the Chargers have the same pathetic offensive drive. I felt like I was watching them do the same thing for 40 minutes. Then Hunt ran them out of the game.

Oakland Raiders 10 at Washington Redskins 27

Aaron Schatz: Washington finally getting some protection in the second quarter, so Kirk Cousins is finding receivers and getting the ball down the field. He's 13-of-14 so far in this game. Oakland's defense is almost entirely pass rush so if the quarterback is getting time, the Raiders are vulnerable. That's not the surprise so far tonight; the surprise is that the Raiders offense isn't doing much, with two picks by Derek Carr.

Bryan Knowles: It's been a week for some pretty sorry passing lines, and Derek Carr is no exception -- 5-for-10 for 23 yards with two interceptions at the half. To be fair, he has been the victim of some drops, notably from Amari Cooper. The Raiders offense is just out of sync.

Tom Gower: Down 14-0, the Raiders have looked like they deserve the deficit. It's not obvious they have answers to how to successfully cover Vernon Davis, they're not getting ahead of the chains on offense, and Derek Carr hasn't made plays on either early downs or in obvious passing situations. Their last real offensive play summed up their experience as well as anything. Zach Brown drops off in short coverage, and Carr hits Seth Roberts on the short drag on third-and-13 anyway.

Aaron Schatz: Josh Doctson finally shows his awesome ball skills! Goes up over David Amerson to catch a 52-yard touchdown to make it 21-0 Washington!

Oh, wait ... I've got Jason Verrett on the phone and he wants to remind all the Doctson fans that health is a skill. Enjoy it while it lasts, though!

Washington is one of the best offensive lines in the league. They aren't quite the same caliber as the Cowboys, Steelers, and Raiders, but they're very good. And tonight, at least, they are playing better than the Oakland line.

Bryan Knowles: A very questionable goal-line series there for Oakland, after a Washington fumble and penalty put them into prime scoring position on the 4-yard line. Three straight passes, first of all, which is questionable in and of itself. One bad snap killed one of the plays, they ran a weird screen that was blown up and the pass coming closest to Donald Penn as opposed to any sort of eligible receiver, and the third pass was nearly picked off. Not entirely sure what they were doing there -- and they needed to turn that series into a touchdown, considering their failures to move the ball all night.

Scott Kacsmar: Raiders finished with 128 yards of offense thanks to a little garbage time on the last drive. It's very hard to keep an offense under 130 yards these days. Arizona did it to the Rams in the 2016 season finale, but you have to go back to December 2015 to find another example. That was also Oakland, but in a 15-12 win over Denver. I'm very surprised at how dominant the Redskins were tonight. The Oakland defense looking like 2016 form wasn't a surprise, but the offense is supposed to carry the team, right? One catch each for Crabtree and Cooper and just 13 total yards for them is just shocking.

Rivers McCown: Derek Carr has always been boosted by his receiver play and his offensive line. Neither of them showed up today. Washington was able to harass Carr constantly -- when he wasn't surprised that the ball was snapped into his hands in the first place. I'll be interested to see a cornerback breakdown to see how much Josh Norman played on Michael Crabtree. In my opinion, Crabtree is the straw that stirs the drink in Oakland, while everyone keeps waiting for Amari Cooper to be consistently great rather than mix big games and nothing ones.

It's infuriating to see Chris Thompson run so much better than every other Washington back and still be treated like a part-timer.

Posted by: Andrew Potter on 25 Sep 2017

152 comments, Last at 27 Sep 2017, 10:32pm by theslothook


by big10freak :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 9:53am

Josh Jones blew the coverage on the running back but otherwise was an impact player. 12 tackles, 2 sacks and a huge tackle bringing down the tight end to prevent a first down in the 4th quarter. GB has lost faith in most of their cornerbacks so went with a slew of safeties in the dime defense with Morgan Burnett moving into coverage and Jones playing a linebacker type role.

Kevin King didn't shut down anyone but also did not get completely embarrassed which is a huge step up from Rollins who after a decent rookie season has been abysmal.

Kyle Murphy had a rough day with Lawson consistently beating him to the corner. But then McCarthy being McCarthy giving a guy his second start in the NFL at left tackle any help is verboten. Here is hoping Murphy uses that Stanford education to adjust his game in the positive direction.

I think Mixon slipped on that 3rd down run late in the 4th quarter which caused Dalton to just fall down on the ball.

Thought Kenny Clark did pretty ok holding the point. No real inside pass rush but I will take the run defense since nobody else on the line was helping in that area

by Flounder :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:46am

I continue to be frustrated by game plans that don't give players (Murphy) you surely must know will need help.....help! And when things go poorly, the seeming complete inability to adjust to the unsurprising reality until after halftime.

That said, it's fun to root for your team to come back, and I was certainly entertained after halftime.

I was also pleased with King. He wasn't responsible for all of King's catches, and, frankly, given that all other receivers combined for two catches for 20-something yards, I'll take A.J. Green getting 111 on 10 catches every day. Having a star receiver merely hurt GB, instead of utterly destroying them, is distinct progress!

by big10freak :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:01am

Agreed. No 12 catches for 180 yards and 2 TDs works for me. Baby steps!

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 9:58am

Thielen, Diggs, and Cook are really good, and Rudolph is an above average tight end in pass catching, so whenever the Vikings o-line keeps the Vikings qb, whomever that is, comfortable, the Vikings are going to score points. Yes, the Bucs defense was banged up, but the Vikings o-line has already played two games this year which were substantially better than any performance last year. Here's hoping the injury bug doesn't bite any more than it has already...

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:21am

I don't think Keenum was knocked down once yesterday, and not sure he was ever pressured. If you mix that with the wide-open WRs he had, and he was basically playing Madden on easy mode.

I do wonder why, up 14 with a couple minutes left in a visibly won game, why the Vikings kept Cook in that game, though. Put anyone else in, save the kid some wear and tear.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:34am

I think this early in a guy's career, he needs reps, even at greater injury risk. That, and Mckinnon is a marginal player.

by billprudden :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:00am

I'm tellin' ya, the best my beloved Raiders can hope for this year is 8-8.

- LBs, CBs, and SS struggle in coverage, in a passing league
- Our 3rd WR is Seth Roberts, not Patterson, and he isn't nearly good enough
- Last year's late-game heroics can't be reliably repeated

That said, did anybody else notice how often Patterson got to the WASH punt returner as the ball did? Tremendous coverage by him in that game.


by Xexyz :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:38am

Patterson is fantastic on punt coverage. The Vikings put him on punt coverage last year and he made plays all over the place.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:50am

He's the rare player whose special teams play justifies a late first round selection.

by billprudden :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:04pm

Was he a gunner in college?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:07pm

I dunno....

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:09am

Give me the health profile for the Vikings,Packers, and Lions for the next 3 months, and I'll tell you who wins the division. Oh, and the Bears are much better than most thought, it seems likely, so a reasonable case can be made for the NFC North being the best division, depending on how representative the Raiders' atrocity was last night.

by nat :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:08am

Re: Aaron on the Patriots-Texans game:

Hell of a comeback, but the Patriots have serious problems to address.

Spot on. Especially that defense. They are bad. I don't see much playoff future for the Patriots because of that unit.

Deshaun Watson's ...scramble drill stuff today was Aaron Rodgers-level amazing.

Hell, yes. It was fun to watch, even for a Patriots fan. Agonizing. But in a fun way. I hope he continues to develop his skills. I love me some yummy QB play!

I'm not going to recount the play-by-play of the Patriots' last drive -- that's Scott's job for Tuesday

Was it all luck? Or was it also bad officiating? Or bad coaching and play by Houston. Only time will tell.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:59am

Last 2 Pats plays looked like good coaching (by them.) How many teams would've burned their final timeout after the long Amendola catch with under a minute left? Or ran up and spiked, to let the team breathe? Instead, they didn't let Houston breathe.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:00pm

The commentators made a couple of comments about the Houston D-line looking very winded, and very hot.

That's one of the things the Patriots are very good at - not giving the opponent anything for free (well, except for the enormous chunks of field that Cassius Marsh is "covering")

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:04pm

The Patriots nearly every week demonstrate the distinct advantage of being way out on the right tail of the curve, in terms of being well organized.

by PaddyPat :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 5:41pm

We have seen other weak NE defenses turn it around during the course of the year. The secondary talent is strong. The linebackers are dubious but athletic, and the defensive line has been underperforming. As with the offensive line though, I am not persuaded that they can't settle down and turn it around. On the other hand, the NE schedule gets very weak down the stretch, and it is possible that they will appear to gel through November and December, win a bucket of games, and then be exposed in the postseason...

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:09pm

When has ne truly been exposed in the postseason? I can't think of any besides the that loss to the Ravens(which even that game - it was the offense that kept turning it over in their own end zone).

by dryheat :: Tue, 09/26/2017 - 7:25am

Denver in the AFCC two seasons ago, most recently.

by theslothook :: Tue, 09/26/2017 - 1:24pm

I guess it depends how one defines exposed. It was a close, tightly contested game. Ok, ne blew two seam routes. Ok so ne gave up a ton of pressure and picked off Brady twice. Those happen against tough opponents. Plus, that game really did come down to HOA.

by LionInAZ :: Wed, 09/27/2017 - 6:42pm

HOA? I knew homeowner associations had too much power, but I never realized it extended to deciding NFL games.

by theslothook :: Wed, 09/27/2017 - 10:32pm

AHHH...thanks for that bit of correction! HFA

by RickD :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:12am

Some thoughts -

Antonio Brown was not close to being in bounds on the play that the DPI call was reversed. Wish that particular clause would be used more often.

DeShaun Watson is seriously elusive. Not sure about the whole package yet, but the ceiling is Russell Wilson. My guess is the Texans have solved their QB problem.

Bill O'Brien's game management is dubious. Down 2 late, don't kick the PAT. Ever. And somebody should have called a time out with 13 seconds left.

The Redskins haven't played a dominating game against a good opponent like that in quite a long time.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:18am

For the life of me, I couldn't figure out why a guy with Watson's measurables, and college record, including twice destroying the closest thing to an NFL defense college football has to offer, in the biggest games the guy ever played in, was not projected higher.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:09pm

I think it had to do with his abysmal throwing velocity. QBs whose fastest ball is still under 50 mph don't have any kind of track record in the NFL.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:12pm

Hmmmm, watching him play in college, his velocity didn't appear that low to me....

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:53pm

Watson threw 49 mph at the combine. Mahommes threw 60 mph. General rule is that any qb throwing less than 55 mph without a major injury fails in the NFL. Dak Prescott threw 54, but he had an injury at the time.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:17pm

I wonder if he was retested at some point, because I really haven't seen a notable lack of velocity.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:15pm

Yeah, they could be wrong about him, but his timed velocity was one big reason to doubt him.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 5:28pm

I wonder if he tanked some combine drills because he didn't want to go to Cleveland or some other crap franchise

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 5:33pm

It would be awesome if somebody successfully manipulated the draft that way.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:45pm

John Elway and Eli Manning say hi

The standard is the standard!

by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 09/26/2017 - 12:48am

Never really thought about it, but would anyone really notice the difference between a 55mph (80.7fps) and a 50mph (73.3fps) throw watching on TV? Slower throwers do seem to be at a competitive disadvantage on some throws (which might limit the playbook). If a 15 yard out requires about a 30 yard throw, it could take about 0.11 seconds more for the 50mph QB to get it all the way there. In that length of time the typical freakishly athletic NFL cornerback could probably close on the ball an additional 1-2 feet depending on his jump. That could make the difference between a completion and a defensed pass or a pick. It also seems less velocity would usually limit deep pass length.

Looking at the chart at https://birdbreakdown.com/2014/03/03/qb-velocity-rankings-nick-foles-has... it seems in that data set there is not a bunch of NFL success at the 50 mph level. Tyrod Taylor is a 50mph guy though, and can play some given his mobility. Mike Glennon is a 49. Ultimately Watson may be fine if he can stay mobile and work around any velocity limitation.

Would be interesting to see velocity data for the older/more established QBs (the combine data linked above is for 2008-2014).

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Tue, 09/26/2017 - 8:08am

this comment, though it does try to address the point in a meaningful way, misses a lot of the keys.

1) in .11 second an NFL player covers a LOT more than 1-2 feet.

2) the change in speed of the throw doesn't just change the time it gets there in a linear way. Balls are thrown on a non linear trajectory (at least when talking about long throws for people with poor arm strength). Ignoring the timing issue for a DB to close, the ball from a lower-arm-strenght QB will come into the catch point at a more descending arc (easier for a DB to make a play on). Assuming the weak-arm QB knows this, he has to make the "safe" out throw a diving catch by the WR. (low odds of success) See Manning stop throwing out routes almost entirely in Denver as a non-math example.

3) all other things being equal, a faster pass that is poorly thrown (or decided) is going to be harder for a DB (who sucks at catching, as a general rule) to catch, even if he makes a good play on it.

4) higher arm strength / pass speed means less compensation for wind (either lateral deflection or distance reduction).
The standard is the standard!

by anotherpatsfan :: Tue, 09/26/2017 - 9:51am

Agree on the wind. Also agree it is 3D ballistics problem with the angle of the throw being important in determining how long it gets there. The weak arm guys do need to work around this and their coaches do too.

The 1-2 feet was an estimate which ignores acceleration, and presumes the DB has to change direction to close on the ball. At top speed, yes the fast guys cover more than 1-2 feet (for a 4.4 40 guy, it would be about 3 feet). The fast ten yard splits at the combine are in the 1.5 second range, at that speed they cover 2.2 feet in .11 seconds. Some guys would probably accelerate more quickly after the direction change. It is still a significant advantage for the CB to have more time to get there and makes it that much harder for the play to be successful.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:28am

To be fair, Watson WAS calling for Time Out with 13 seconds left - its on the telecast - not sure why the refs just ignored him.

Like most quarterbacks who can run like that, Watson will live or die on how the balance of good scrambles (like the video above) compare to bad scrambles (where you turn a 4 yard sack into a 15 yard sack). He had a couple of both yesterday, and got away with a couple things that were really dangerous (and he turned what should have been a couple incompletes into 3 or 4 yard losses - they need to work on throwing the ball away when you can't get back to the LOS). There was a ridiculous across the body across the field throw in the second half that worked out - but probably gets returned for 6 about half the time you throw it. d

His ceiling is ridiculous though.

by RickD :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:45am

Watson wasted several seconds before calling for time out. He seemed to be looking to the sideline for guidance. I didn't see any signal for at least 3 seconds, and I think it was closer to 6. Houston would have gotten a TO with 7 seconds left.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:14am

The level of play was much better overall, compared to the first two weeks, it seemed obvious to me.

The guy who was so oblivious as to flag Vonn Miller really ought to be fired, but a league which still employs Jeff Triplette won't do that, of course.

by deus01 :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:24am

Helping to decide games by throwing flags on players actually having a bit a fun on the field is just what the NFL needs to help its watchability problem.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:37am

I mean, if a guy is so lazy, or has his judgement so pre-determined (which is a form of laziness, of course), that he can't be bothered to pay attention, prior to tossing a flag, why is he on the field?

by Scott P. :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:41am

I must say I am mystified by this reaction. It was a textbook unsportsmanlike move. Laughing while you're doing it doesn't make it any less unsportsmanlike.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:57am

The fact that the qb was laughing as well, meaning this was a joke between two friends, negates the possibility that this was taunting of the kind the rule is designed to penalize.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:06pm

I think asking the ref to wave off a call because the victim of the taunting laughed is pretty ridiculous. People also laugh when they're uncomfortable, or tense, and asking the referees to discern the quality of laugh is way outside their skillset.

It was pretty much a text book taunting call.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:10pm

Yeah, I was 99% sure it was two friends having fun. Maybe the ref is on the spectrum.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:17pm

I couldn't care less if the refs were 99% sure too - they should be making calls based on what happens on the field, not people's social relationships.

This is no different than a player humping a football in the endzone after a touchdown (or any other celebration penalty)- it probably shouldn't be a penalty - but it is, and as long as it is, the referees should call it when it happens, and players should expect to be penalized for it.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:23pm

" but it is, and as long as it is, the referees should call it when it happens, and players should expect to be penalized for it."

'they could call holding on every play....'

The standard is the standard!

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:29pm

Yes, what happened on the field was one guy extended his hand to help a guy stand up, and then withdrew it, and then both guys laughed. You think that is taunting. I don't.

by Craigo :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 4:42pm

"I don't."

This is salient...why? Your opinion is not a factor. It's quite literally textbook taunting, and definitive pronouncements from internet randos do not change the wording of the rule, the decision of the ref, the agreement of New York, or the intent of the competition committee; all of which actually matter, and none of which you have any influence over, or ever will.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 5:01pm

The rule calls for the referee to make an interpretation. My entire point is that the ref's interpretaion is either borne of laziness in observation, or psychosis.

by Eddo :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 5:14pm

Or he just didn't see them laughing? They're wearing helmets with facemasks, after all.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 5:22pm

I saw them laughing on a screen 5 inches wide. If you are going to throw a flag, pay attention.

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 5:32pm

Craigo says this is "textbook" taunting. What does the "textbook" (rulebook?) actually say, verbatim?

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 5:39pm

Somebody posted it in the thread already. The rule basically calls for the ref to make a judgement with regard to the alleged taunter's intent. The ref's judgement yesterday was seriously impaired.

by doktarr :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:53pm

It's actually quite different than a player humping the ball. That is explicitly considered Unsportsmanlike Conduct by rule ("Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground"). No need for interpretation there.

This situation has to fall back on "The use of baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams." That explicitly requires the referee to determine whether it was an act that engenders ill will.

The official is supposed to use his judgement. The official got it wrong.

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:11pm

Engender means "to cause, or give rise to" - it has nothing to do with intent.

Offering to help someone up, and then letting them fall on their ass can most certainly do that.

by bravehoptoad :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:19pm

...but it didn't. You can tell that by the way they're both laughing.

Engender means "to cause, or give rise to" - it has nothing to do with possibly doing those things.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:32pm

It can do that, but not in this instance, when two friends plainly saw it as humorous.

by doktarr :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:37pm

(bravehoptoad already answered this clearly, but I'll pile on because your comment deserves it.)

The action did not "cause, or give rise to" ill will between the teams. It very literally fails the definition of engender that you just gave. Why you think this supports your argument is really beyond me.

(Also, largely unrelated, but he didn't let Taylor fall on his ass. He never started to lift him up. Picking a guy up halfway and then yanking your hand away would be a much more unambiguously douchebaggy move, for sure.)

by deus01 :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:17pm

Apparently lots of other people also enjoy the fact that no fun is allowed in the NFL.

by D2K :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:58am

I said the same thing yesterday in the open thread. It's absolutely the definition of unsportsmanlike. That it happened right in front of the ref was even more egregious.

Disclaimer: I'm a Bills fan but that should be called 100% of the time.

by doktarr :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:46pm

I have to wonder if those who are saying this is "the definition of unsportsmanlike conduct" have read the actual unsportsmanlike conduct rule.

There's literally 20 different clauses listed under the definition, including a ton of specific things about celebrations, team celebrations, using a prop, abusive or threatening language or gestures, and a bunch of in-game stuff like leverage. None of those many clauses apply, so we're left with the taunting section, which is defined as "The use of baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams." (emphasis added)

These things are subject to interpretation. When it comes to the taunting section of the UC rules, the intention of the "taunter" and reaction of the "taunt-ee" are explicitly called out as something that matters. This is why we have referees and not robots. They are supposed to use their judgement here. They are supposed to decide whether an act engenders ill will. If it doesn't, it is not taunting, by definition.

If it's the first quarter of a Ravens Steelers game, and it's done with the intent to taunt, then it can be called. Even then, it's OK to let something so meaningless go - we're talking about a sport where people routinely put their weight on opposing players while getting up from the pile. But I could understand it in a situation where the refs are trying to prevent escalation. But to call it in that situation, late in a game between two teams that see each other ~4 times in a decade and have zero ill will and no prior incidents of note in the game, between two players who are clearly having a laugh, is a joke.

It's not the Worst Call I've Ever Seen, but it's clearly a case where the official failed to use judgement and correctly apply the rule.

by nat :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 4:12pm

This applies to any act which is contrary to the
generally understood principles of sportsmanship
. Such acts specifically include, among others:

The existence of the list does not negate the very first sentence of the rule. The second sentence makes it crystal clear that the list that follows is not intended to be exhaustive. While I am sure you read the rule, you obviously didn't understand it at its most basic level: Hey, players! Don't be jerks.

The question is, does playing a prank on an opponent during a game to make him look foolish and hold him up to ridicule comport with "the generally understood principles of sportsmanship"? And, if it does (really? you think that?), is it otherwise one of the specifically mentioned illegal acts?

Now, in general, pranking someone is baiting him, even when done in good nature. You prank someone to get a rise out of him, to have a laugh at his expense. (If he is like many people, he'll laugh along as if he were in on the trick to lessen his embarrassment. If you are like many people, you'll apologize for taking the liberty, to avoid being a complete jerk yourself.) But even if it were not baiting, it would still be unsporting. The "generally accepted" behavior is to treat your opponent with respect between plays, or, if you cannot bring yourself to do that, to avoid interaction with him. Pulling a prank on someone, even if intended in good fun, is not in accordance with generally understood principles of sportsmanship. Sportsmen save that stuff for the bar after the game.

Now, football teammates prank each other all the time. That's different, and even then can still cause ill will. Doing it on the field in a game would likely get you benched or worse. But with an opponent in the heat of a game? Pranking an opponent is always a bad idea.

To me, the ref used good judgment. You do not, as a ref, want teams feeling they can pull pranks on each other during your games. There is no free pass for pranking an opponent because the game is close and near the end. In fact, those situations make the infraction worse: you were probably trying to induce a reaction that could have resulted in a penalty. That's the height of bad sportsmanship.

So the lesson here: If you are tempted to make fun of an opponent between plays, even "in jest" via a prank, don't. Just don't.

by doktarr :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 4:57pm

Your argument essentially boils down to: "Officials should not consider context or reactions. Any action which could be interpreted as an effort to belittle, humiliate, or get a rise out of one's opponents should be called."

The problem with this argument is that it's suggesting something utterly incongruous with the way the game is actually played and officiated. Players bark at each other and talk trash all the time. They do this in ways that are blatantly, unambiguously bad-spirited, intending to assert dominance over their opponents. They also do actual physical things that are not germane to the play (let themselves bump someone a bit, put their weight into their opponent while getting up from a big pile, etc) that are intended to get under their opponents' skin. Again, these things happen all the time.

And yet, officials let most of this stuff go. If a player intentionally bumps someone while getting up, or gestures aggressively at an opponent at the same time they are taunting them, then those things get called. The point is, the officials clearly use interpretation to decide what falls under "the generally understood principles of sportsmanship".

To temporarily redirect your question slightly, is jawing with the receiver after you break up the pass and make the "no good" hand signal within "the generally understood principles of sportsmanship"? The answer is: yes, it is. It's generally understood because it's allowed. The officials, over the course of thousands of games of recent history, have established a basic standard of what is and is not considered outside the bounds.

The line does shift over time - post-play pushing is called tighter than in the past, and sometimes certain things (e.g. the throat slitting gesture) are added to the list of things that are considered inherently unsportsmanlike. But the line exists, and it's not nearly as extreme as you seem to be saying.

But the point is twofold:
1) There is a standard, and it's not "is this gentlemanly and kind". It's much more lax than that.
2) Officials are required, both by the rules and in practice, to use their judgement to decide what falls within and without that.

It's fairly ridiculous to argue that this harmless joke of a prank was given and received in a less good-natured way than probably a dozen incidents of trash-talking and post-play contact in that game alone. Those did not merit flags, and neither did this.

(Semi-related: I never brought up the closeness of the game. I brought up the lateness because the game had established a flow and a level of physicality. The game was clearly under control, with no bad blood building up, so the officials should have felt no need to assume bad intentions or be quick with a flag to prevent things from escalating.)

by The Ninjalectual :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 5:38pm

I think this post gets the essence of the argument explained correctly, if with more words than is really ideal :)

by nat :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:19pm

I agree. It's well expressed if a bit wordy. And it backs away from the wrongheaded "literally 20 different clauses" idea that missed the central point of the unsportsmanlike conduct rule. The rule is, in short "don't be a jerk" for an unstated but generally understood definition of being a jerk in football.

I get that many people are okay with playing pranks in a professional sport during a game. I also get that a ref would not want his games to become marred by players pulling pranks each other, and would consider such acts to be unsportsmanlike.

If you allow pranks, you need to allow them on every play. A little trash talk on every play does not undermine sportsmanship if players avoid a few of the worst taunts and don't get in each others faces while doing it or delay the game. Refs can and do keep a lid on that stuff pretty well.

A prank on every play would ruin the game. Allowing the first prank but penalizing the second or third would be even worse.

Although I do like the idea of a corner back getting a receiver to say "underwear" every play.

Just sayin'.

by doktarr :: Tue, 09/26/2017 - 1:10pm

Seems like you misinterpreted my "20 clauses" argument (which, admittedly, wasn't very clear). I wasn't arguing it wasn't covered by any of the 20. I was arguing (and still argue) that this sort of thing falls well within the bounds of the taunting clause, but fails to garner a penalty because it did not "engender ill will". You essentially conceded the point that if fails by that clause, but then said it's non-specific unsportsmanlike conduct. So I addressed why I don't think that's true either.

Why do you concede that referees are entirely capable of separating OK trash talk from unacceptable trash talk and deciding which ones to flag, but then proceed immediately to slippery slope arguments with "pranks"? Why are referees incapable of discriminating there, in the same way?

If pranks like this one are happening regularly, then one of two things is true:

a) Nobody is getting riled up, there's no escalation, it's being done in good fun. In that case, no big deal. Let it continue, just like the trash talk that happens all the time.
b) It is causing ill will and may lead to escalation. Go ahead and flag it. (If it's been going on for a while, then explicitly tell the players you're going to flag it if it continues... again, like officials often do with trash talk when they think it's going too far.)

Again, this is basically the same determination that the officials have to make when it comes to players jawing at each other. There's nothing about Von Miller's "sike" move that's functionally different than him saying something "witty" while standing over Tyrod Taylor. We shouldn't pretend there is.

by nat :: Tue, 09/26/2017 - 3:58pm

I hear you.

I don't think I was making a slippery slope argument, although I can see why you might interpret it as such. I'm not offended, but will try to explain what I meant.

I wasn't saying that if you allow a mild prank then you'll get harsh pranks. That would have been a slippery slope argument, and I agree it would have been a weak one. Refs judge the severity of infractions all the time, no problem.

I was saying that for a given level of harshness, you have to consistently allow or not allow the prank. I think you'll agree that consistency is critical for this kind of thing.

I dislike your idea of throwing the flag based on the prank victim's response (you say "causing ill will" but that would be evident in the reaction only). That is a recipe for players pretending to be offended to draw a penalty. The idea is to get players to compete playing football, not by giving tragic acting demonstrations about how their feelings were hurt.

I also dislike the idea of having it be legal to prank your opponent until the ref gives a warning. Better to ban it outright. Otherwise, the ref is just allowing ill will to build up before acting, which isn't the idea either. Or is he supposed to give a warning before any ill will builds up? How? By allowing each team one prank? Why we would ever want a rule like that?

So either a prank should be allowed in all cases or not in any. Unlike trash talk, which is unavoidably on a continuum with spontaneous chatting and boasting and the forbidden extreme insults, there is little grey area needing a ref's judgment with pranks. A prank is a prank. There wouldn't be much point in offering your hand, not pulling as hard as you could, and saying "sort of sike!" You prank someone or you don't.

We shouldn't pretend pranking is just like talking. It is functionally very different.

by johonny :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:19am

Mia-Jets: This is the kind of game you get when the NFL schedules a hurricane ravaged team on the road in LA, the NYC and then faces another long haul to London next week. Miami had 52 total yards late in the 3rd qrt. They looked a distracted and gassed team, two weeks into their season! :( Honestly Miami had back to back offsides on defense, then got the ball back and had back to back false starts on offense. They really never started to play better than that back to back series. The secondary is so bad right now that they should easily get picked apart by Brees in London. This leads me to thinking, The Dolphins had a chance to pick up a hungry QB with everything in the world to prove and instead choose the safe retired QB who can't wait to take his 10 million back to the FOX booth. How's that choice working out now? Hey Cutler knows the offense. We all know the offense. It has about 10 plays in it. The Jets aren't good, but they were way better than Gase's play it safe product on Sunday. You can see a few good young Jets players developing, something Miami lacks. My biggest fear now is that Miami wins games and ends up 7-9 with a ho-hum draft selection. This team needs talent, a lot of it. AFC east watch 1) NE-They score, they give up yrds, they've probably won the division already. 2)Bill IDK they hang around on people and all those picks to come next season 3) Jets are now behind on tie breaker to Miami come draft 4) Mia-Good news, next Sundays game will be over before most fans wake up.

by James-London :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:48am

Miami were dreadful. I, sadly will be awake for the Wembley game- the consolation is I couldn't get a ticket, so I won't have spent £80 for the privilege of watching Drew Bress hang 60 on the God-awful back 7.
The QB/O-line is a problem, but wow, does the back seven stink. Can Kaep play corner or free safety?

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by johonny :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:40pm

A little of the bloom came off Adam Gase's rose this week. He has a MIA linebacker, a road weary team, Cutler's lack of play, and one heck of a hard schedule ahead of him. The good news is after the Saints game they have a much lighter travel schedule, with mostly southern and East coast travel games. In other thoughts, if they do end up in the top three of the draft: they take a QB right?

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:54pm

1). Thanks johonny for covering the game when no one at FO bothered to watch or comment. I don't blame them, but thanks; it might be the only time I get to comment on FO after a Jets win this year. 2) While what I saw of the game made Miami look unprepared, I am hoping this game shows a return to the Jets run defense from last year, after two weeks of getting gouged. It didn't look like it was all J-Train's fault, since PFF claimed the average first contact in Miami's run game was behind the line of scrimmage. 4) Not sure if the Pats are a lock to win the division yet. Buffalo has given up 12, 9 and 16 points in their games this year, and Taylor just beat Denver, something the more heralded Dak Prescott couldn't do. If Brady goes down, Buffalo may steal it. And New England's offensive line looks like they really want Garroppolo to play. I would still bet on New England to win it, but it's not a given. Also think the Patriots' ceiling this year is a second round loss. I doubt they're getting a bye, even with Pittsburgh blowing the game yesterday. 5) Why are the Jaguars playing in New York next week? I thought any team playing in London got a bye the next week. The NFL really doesn't want Darnold playing for the Jets, do they?

Just Kidding.

by Travis :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:02pm

5) Why are the Jaguars playing in New York next week? I thought any team playing in London got a bye the next week.

The NFL offered to schedule the Jaguars and Ravens for byes this week but both teams opted to take them later in the season.

by johonny :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:40pm

The Jets Dline controlled the line of scrimmage without a doubt. Cutler can't move so it created a lot of problems. It's hard to judge the Jets offense because clearly next year they'll have another QB. That's sort of the scary part of the game, the Jets left points off the board that a decent QB would have put up. It should have been an even uglier final score. The Bills are interesting. They're playing well, have a ton of draft picks coming...if they sweep Miami and the Jets they could get into the wild card picture. They'd have to beat New England before I even considered them a real division contender. Brady is just playing at such a high level, but will his 40 yr body hold up...I don't root for injuries.

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:56pm

I don't root for injuries either, and Brady is a tough guy... but he's forty. I'd be surprised if the AFC East got a wildcard team, but if Baltimore and Oakland have more days like yesterday, anything is possible. I'm also will probably root for the Patriots down the stretch, especially in that last game. I really want them to win that last game of the regular season.

by D2K :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:48pm

Bills fan here so some bias I'm sure but Sean McDermott actually looks like a real coach. Someone capable of making halftime adjustments.

The Bills have only allowed 12 points TOTAL in the 2nd half of all 3 games so far. To put that more clearly:

Jets: 6 points
Panthers: 3 points
Broncos: 3 points

The great thing is the Bills have only allowed 3 points so far in the 4th quarter and have only allowed 2 touchdowns through 3 games. Imo, the true test of a coach is how he handles the adjustments at halftime. So far, Sean McDermott has passed the test. Does that mean we can hang with Brady and that offensive juggernaut? IDK, but I am a lot more confident this season than I have been in this millennium.

by Cogitus :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 8:36pm

Bills fan here too. At least defensively McDermott is a breath of fresh air over the Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee clown show of last year. He also seems extremely organized and prepared ---our 2 minute drills are effective and smart now, we aren't getting fooled by fake punts, timeouts aren't being wasted, and as you mentioned, after halftime we look strong. So that's the good news.

Offensively, I have some gripes so far, namely his nepotism and fetish for a fat turd named Tolbert who clogs (pun intended) the offense almost every time he steps on the field. Getting rid of Gillislee for pennies and cutting J. Williams, who looked promising in the preseason, for no real reason is pretty unjustifiable, no matter how devalued RBs are. When McDermott and Dennison took over the offense I thought I read they would mix in some of Dennison's zone blocking scheme but largely leave last year's explosive power/trap game intact. So far that hasn't been the case and Shady hasn't had as much room to roam in the zone scheme, although this could be because with no deep threat like Watkins teams have been selling out to stop the run.

It's frustrating as a Bills fan, as one could imagine. If we kept last year's offense and paired with this year defense, we could potentially be Super Bowl contenders. I really wanted to see what Taylor and Watkins could do this year now that he was healthy and we had real NFL coaching. But we got rid of him and now I feel like this staff aren't totally playing to Taylor's strengths by not giving him a true deep threat, as he throws a beautiful, accurate downfield field but can struggle with the short timing passes. I think he's doing all he can given what limited options he has and the scheme he's running---I just hope they don't run him out of town, as he's been underappreciated and misused for most of his career here.

by Biebs :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 4:00pm

One comment on #3. Draft Tiebreaker is entirely unreleated to H2H, it goes W/L then opponent's schedule. Jets could sweep the Dolphins have the same record, and then get a better schedule because the strength of schedule was worse than the Dolphins.

In this case that means if they have same record
tiebreaker would be that the Jets need the Jags and Browns to have a worse record than Titans and Ravens.

by johonny :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:32pm

True, H2H comes after strength of schedule. The Jets and Dolphins also have to finish with the same record. After 2 weeks, I'm not sure what Miami has...it's a strange team. Can't wait to see what opponent adjustment does to this game by the end of the season. Will it end up Miami's worst loss in the Outsider's system history? They've stunk it up before to "bad teams" so we'll see.

by Peregrine :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:36am

What's the peanut gallery say about the Texans kicking the FG late instead of going for it? Texans had 4th and a foot at the NE 18 with 2:28 left, up 30-28, the Patriots with one timeout. O'Brien opted to kick the FG to go up 33-28, and the rest is history. I'd be curious to see the victory percentages between going for it and kicking the FG. I'd be inclined to think going for it was the correct call.

Also, I thought O'Brien was dumb not to unleash Watson as a runner in crunch time. It's true that it's unwise to push a QB to run for four quarters over 16 games, but when the game is there to be won or lost, you can't be afraid to let him loose.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:44am

found ti sissified for O'Brien to call for field goal attempt there. wodul go for 1st doewn muyself if I was Texans coach

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:57am

Any time you can negate the opponent's strength, by making a non-remarkable play against the opponent's weakness, and definitively win the game with that one non-remarkable play, that's something you should try to take advantage of.

by nat :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:02am

I'd say kicking the FG was the smart move. Field goal kicking conditions were very good, so it was highly valuable to force the Patriots to go the length of the field for a TD. As it happened, the Patriots did go the length of the field. Getting a field goal would have been even easier for them.

A key point is that if a fourth down run had succeeded, the most likely drive result was still a FG. You'd be trading the near certainty of an immediate kick for a large chance of either no points (loss on downs or a later turnover or long sack) or three points (FG), and a smaller chance of a TD.

I can see the argument for going or it. But I don't agree with it. It's a close thing, though. Getting getting the first down followed by a TD would have iced the game.

by SandyRiver :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:04am

Having just seen their second 3rd-and-1 stuff of the quarter may have affected Houston's judgment.

by big10freak :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:06am

I hate that about coaches. They need to treat plays as more independent events versus letting themselves being convinced that one failure means all future similar attempts will fail.

by Pat :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:21am

What makes you think they're not right? They're the ones who actually have the most information about why a play failed. If they go and ask the linemen "what the hell happened?" and they say "yeah, there's no way I'm getting push against that guy, he's too strong," why *wouldn't* the coach believe that the next attempt will fail?

Reality's probably somewhere in the middle, of course, but those attempts aren't coin flips. One attempt failing means that you've got to lower your best estimate of your true success percentage.

by big10freak :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:13pm

If a coach answered a question as you did about receiving feedback I would be more understanding. But almost always when a discussion happens the feedback is something along the lines of 'we tried that early and lost a yard'.

Maybe the conversations you describe still happened and the coach isn't interested in sharing.

That and of course this mindset haunted the Packers in the Mike Sherman era and continues now in the McCarthy era with respect to running plays. Both Mikes would give pass plays all kinds of chances but once a running play failed it got ditched. One of the most famous is in the first half of the Eagles/Packers playoff game back in 2004 when Ahman Green got stopped at the goal line because an Eagle defender managed to get a nudge that had the Packer lineman trip Green. So now it's 4th and a half yard at the end of the game and a first down ends the game, Eagles defense is exhausted, it's at like the Philly 41 and Sherman punts the ball because he convinced himself that the best Packers offensive line of like the past 30 odd years would not win that play. Oh, and Ahman Green was at his peak in converting short yardage back then.


by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:29pm

Reporters don't want his answer though - they want the soundbite. We've seen this over and over again - giving complicated, well thought out answers just makes their eyes glaze over and prompt them to ask another question about how Aaron Rodgers is coping with the end of his relationship with Olivia Munn.

Watch some of Bill Belichik's press conferences some time - nowhere else is this dynamic more visible - someone will ask him a legitimate football question, and he'll go into the nuances of left handedness as it affects bump and run coverage for 10 minutes, and somebody will follow up with "Right, sure, but how does Tom Brady feel about Deshaun Watson dabbing?" to which he'll visibly get angry, say "We're on to Carolina" and storm out of the room.

by big10freak :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:44pm

Point taken. Though the flip side are the coaches who basically spend most of the time obfuscating on most questions.

by Pat :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:15pm

The other reason for dodging questions like that is that you don't want to call out your players in the media. There are plenty of reasons not to - the player will hear it in film, no advantage to damaging the coach-player relationship, and also no reason to indicate to other teams that you have a low opinion of that player. And really, the only reason to tell the media is that it'll make a very small number of fans happy. It's an easy choice, really.

by BJR :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:49pm

Even if the run game sucks, I'd expect a good coach to have a creative play designed and ready to use at absolute crunch-time in order to gain 1 yard, particularly with a mobile QB at his disposal. At least you can then line up, and take a time-out/delay of game penalty if you really don't like the look of the defense.

I would also say that the wavering degrees of certainty coaches have in their short yardage offense is usually not mirrored in the kicking game. I've certainly seen many situations where the field goal unit is marched out onto the field at a critical moment in spite of previous failures.

by Raiderfan :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:22am

I think some sites-ESPN, Fox--were showing a 95+ chance for Houston winning after kicking the FG.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:27pm

I don't think the choice was an easy one, but it does seem like if the offense only needs a FG they frequently play too conservatively and end up needing an unnecessarily long FG. PFR showed the Texans with an 80% of winning prior to the kick and a 60% after the kick.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:45pm

Texans should realize they're the David to the Patriots Goliath (their good play that day notwithstanding), and need to employ David strategies to win. I would have gone for it. To me, one yard to put the game out of Tom Brady's reach is worth the risk.

by Raiderjoe :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:09pm

yep that is hwo I looked at the suituaiton

by sbond101 :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:19pm

100%. Add to that the highly marginal play of the Pats defense that day. I really can't understand not wanting to take what looked like a >50% chance at winning the game on offense right there;

If you kick:
At that point the Patriots offense had scored a touchdown 4/10 opportunities, and you have to figure with 4 downs all the way down the field & the clock only a small factor the Pats have at least a 50% chance of scoring a touchdown the other way.
If you go for it:
Huston was definitely winning at the LOS at that point, so they conservatively had a 50% chance of converting, despite only getting a half yard on the previous play. If they convert they likely give the Pat's the ball with no time outs (and no 2:00 warning) and about 1:20 to score a touchdown, much more in the neighborhood of a 20% proposition for the Pats, a first down wins the game outright for Huston. It seems like about 90% of the times Huston converts, they win (total probability ~45%). If Huston fails to convert, they give the Pats the ball needing to kill the clock and kick a FG to win, given the way the Pat's offense was operating there's a good 75% they do that successfully (less then you would expect, as there was a non-zero chance of the Pat's leaving too much time on the clock given the boom/bust nature of their offense).
That gives Huston a ~57.5% chance of winning going for it vs. a <50% chance kicking the FG (all back of the envelope). Add to those relative odds the "Human" factor of giving the ball to Brady at home, I don't see this as very open to debate.

by Ben :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:12pm

I think that goes to the basic tenet that: If you're the better team, go with a low-variance strategy. If you're the worse team, go with a high-variance strategy.

In this case, the Texans being the worse team should have gone for it.

The other option is to ask "What would Bill Belichick do?" Which would go back to the "go for it" call against the Colts. That play wasn't successful, but I'd still say it was the right call.

by Dan :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:29pm

I thought they should've gone for it. If they get the first down then they can bring the clock down under 30 seconds even if they don't go anywhere with their new set of downs. And if they're stuffed then NE still needs a 40+ yard drive to get into field goal range.

by dryheat :: Tue, 09/26/2017 - 7:39am

Honestly, I thought the worst blunder O'Brien made was accepting the holding penalty on the Patriots last drive. On their own 25, my gut says it's better to have the Patriots at 3rd and 10 then 2nd and 20. I think given the dynamics of score, time remaining, and line of scrimmage, the extra down was more valuable to the Patriots than the 10 yards.

I, however, am not smart enough to figure it out statistically.

by ChrisLong :: Tue, 09/26/2017 - 8:45am

The simplistic way I think about it is how many yards per play would they have to average over the remaining downs in order to convert. The Pats were going for it on 4th in that situation, so they would either have to average 6.66 (20/3) or 5 (10/2) yards per play depending on whether you accept that penalty. So by that simple calculation accepting the penalty was the correct call. And they also will likely have to burn more clock even if they do convert.

by dryheat :: Tue, 09/26/2017 - 10:24am

I think that is simplistic, and I would buy it under other circumstances, but I think the answer changes based on line of scrimmage, time remaining, time outs remaining, points needed. As a Pats fan, I felt that the Texans erred greatly in giving Brady an extra down with which to work.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:51am

The Pittsburgh / Chicago game was the only game I watched this weekend because of work commitments. I should have worked more. Or put my head in a bucket of water. Pittsburgh couldn't find any rhythm on offense. Defense couldn't tackle. Chicago could only get points off of Pittsburgh screw up until overtime.

by TomC :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:13pm

The Bears did have a 75-yard TD drive in the 2nd quarter that even featured a completed pass that traveled more than 10 yards in the air. But your general point is still valid.

by big10freak :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:03am

Gotta recognize the GB punter Vogel. Other than one shank for 28 yards the guy was great. Distance plus hang time plus super gunner Jeff Janis meant no returns of consequence. Really good to see

by James-London :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:04am

Tennessee are a fun team to watch. Big, ass-kicking O-line, some clever play designs and a good QB. The screen to Rishard Matthews was a thing of beauty.

Phil Simms is a Cretin.

by TomC :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:16pm

Agreed. I hope that's what the Bears offense looks like after a QB change and a little less carnage in the WR corps.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:16am

Was really excited to see the Bucs come to Minnesota until a few plays into the game, at which point it became apparent what was going to happen. If you watch the highlights of that game (and unless you're a Vikings fan, I don't recommend it), you're going to see #28 getting burned over and over; Vernon Hargreaves III, last year's first-round CB. I was about halfway up the lower section in an endzone at US Bank Stadium (which, incidentally, is a REALLY nice stadium), and that view of the field is basically the All-22 in person, and I could clearly see VH3 failing to play coverage over and over. He was giving massive cushions, was tentative out of his breaks, and looked like somebody who absolutely has zero confidence he could slow down the WR. He played one of the worst games at CB I recall seeing.

The worst moment of the game for me was Winston's first pick; he had Desean Jackson wide open on a post route and underthrew it so badly DSJ basically had to stop, and that gave Trey Waynes (who also had a terrible game) time to catch up and undercut it. DSJ was WIDE open on that play, and that kind of route is something Winston typically excels at. Horrible throw. His second pick was to no one in particular, and his third one? Three WRs to the right, with Mike Evans in the slot. I said, out loud, "They're throw the seam route to Mike Evans". Not shockingly, when they threw that astoundingly obvious pass, there were FOUR Vikings around him. Tip drill pick.

The only advantage to being there is it made it harder to see who was injured, as, for some reason, the video screens never focused on that. So I knew people were injured, but had no idea it was that many. Well, until the end of the game, where someone got hurt apparently badly, and I was staring at numbers hoping to see #54 standing up. Nope. Pointless play at the end of a blowout, and Lavonte David gets his leg rolled up on.

The sole highlight for me was while browsing Ebay a few weeks back, I found the best jersey ever; a creamsicle orange #82 Alvin Harper jersey. Which was completely appropriate, considering how the Bucs played.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:29am

You'd think 1.2 billion-plus (which I am infuriated to be contributing to, even though I don't live in The Land of 10,000 Taxpayer Subsidized Sports Facilities any longer) would reliably build a really nice stadium. Not always, to the discredit of the architecture profession, or to the shame of various government entities' lack of integrity.

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:12pm

Maybe it's sad, but I'm so cynical about NFL owners and stadiums that I actually give the Wilfs some credit for screwing their local metropolitan area less than a lot of owners have screwed their metropolitan areas. The Vikings and NFL at least made a pretty considerable contribution of a half a billion dollars. I mean, that's not ideal, but, considering some of the stadium deals out there, I shrug a bit. I tend to think of the Cowboys and how when the team wanted a new practice facility they basically held an open auction to see what suburb would give them the most money. The Vikings, on the other hand, wound up buying the old Northwest Airlines site for their new HQ, and are developing it themselves along with all the associated retail and such.

I guess the disclaimer is I live in Eagan and used to work across the street from the new Vikings HQ, so I basically look at that facility as taking the one kind of cruddy part of my shiny suburb and turning it into a productive part of my community's tax base. The Vikings probably could have strong-armed the town into giving them some huge benefits, but didn't. I mean, it's a great location for development so Wilf and company will make loads on it, but a guy like Jerry Jones would have found a way to really put the screws on the community before deciding anything.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:23pm

Oh, the Wilfs are far from the worst, in terms of putting the screws to the taxpayers, and they actually are paying about 66% of the cost, but given they immediately recouped about 500 million via seat licenses, this has been a windfall for them at taxpayer expense. To be fair, in terms of dedication to winning, they easily are the best owners the Vikings fans have ever had. Lots of folks, however don't appreciate how bad of shape the organization was in, at the end of the McCombs era.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:24pm

" Lots of folks, however don't appreciate how bad of shape the organization was at the end of the McCombs era."

You might say... they're no longer in the Red.

The standard is the standard!

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:17pm

"Steelers are having one of their "playing down to the competition" days in the first quarter."

'no way! he's making it up! Tomlin is great! 10th all time win %. No losing seasons! '

'Oh, well, even if they do, he's just a hater. Or worse, a racist or has other mental issues!' (what you all say when I raise this point)

Oh wait...


David Decastro becomes first Steeler to openly admit that they play down to competition, then laughs about it.

Total failure of the Steeler culture it would appear.

the Standard is the standard!
We do what we do!

anyways, beyond that
"like he's got an easy touchdown to go up 21-0. But he throws on the breaks short of the goal line, almost comes to a complete stop, and two Steelers (including the kicker!) run him down from behind and swat the ball away, a full yard short of the goal line. "

no, that wasn't the kicker.

also, the call on the brown / uncatchable was spot on, but the refs blew a major, blatant DPI where a DB mugged Bryant while he was in the air (on the same play, someone tried to decapitate BigBen, but fortunately missed)

The standard is the standard!

by TomC :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:34pm

"like he's got an easy touchdown to go up 21-0. But he throws on the breaks short of the goal line, almost comes to a complete stop, and two Steelers (including the kicker!) run him down from behind and swat the ball away, a full yard short of the goal line. "
no, that wasn't the kicker.

Two Steelers ran Cooper down. One was the kicker. He wasn't the one that punched the ball away from Cooper, but he was the one that very alertly batted it out of the end zone, so he definitely deserves to be mentioned in the play.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:48pm

"Two Steelers ran Cooper down. One was the kicker. He wasn't the one that punched the ball away from Cooper, but he was the one that very alertly batted it out of the end zone, so he definitely deserves to be mentioned in the play."

no, that was the punter, Berry, who holds the kicks. the kicker, loafed/Zeke'd around well behind the play.

thanks for trying though.

The standard is the standard!

by TomC :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:10pm

Dammit, you suckered me into that!

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:29pm

you must really be totally stupid.
I mean you just got tricked by supposedly the dumbest poster on this site .

The standard is the standard!

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:27pm

I love it that you've started putting up the opposing arguments in your own post.

Firstly because it saves time for the rest of us.

Secondly because it shows you're unable to come up with anything to counter them. I guess by doing that you hope everybody thinks those arguments don't count anymore. But they still do.

It's just wonderful entertainment that you've let other posters get in your head like that. Now what were you saying about mental health issues?

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:28pm

white flag like typing detected.

It's just wonderful you completely ignore the quote from a player on the team that admits exactly what I've stated for years.

but hey, you're racking up the internet hit points.

The standard is the standard!

by TomC :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:28pm

PIT-CHI thoughts:

1) Last thing I want to do is feed any trolls, but man it must be frustrating to watch a team you know is superior fail to crush a team that is begging to be crushed. Not sure what I would have done differently if I were Tomlin/Haley. For example, he first play from scrimmage was exactly what should have been called, and Bryant was ridiculously wide open. I think one thing they missed is that the 5-10 yard pass over the middle was there for the taking every single time. The Bears ILB corps is a MASH hospital, and Quintin Demps went out with an injury (and has been terrible). I would have gone full-WCO and replaced the run game with that.

2) Mike Glennon is awful. No further discussion necessary.

3) Very strange officiating in that game. Some ticky-tack DPI, some other much more egregious DPI ignored, but what really stood out is that if the replays I saw were representative, the Bears' WRs were holding on every single running play. The most obvious one was Deonte Thompson on the TD in overtime (the one they didn't take away), but I swear every time I could see a WR on a run play he was holding. Really helps the downfield run game when your wideouts can tackle people.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 12:49pm

"2) Mike Glennon is awful. No further discussion necessary."

Career 2-0 vs Tomlin's Steelers.

The standard is the standard!

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:39pm

Two things we learned this Sunday:

-Mike Glennon owns the Steelers
-Case Keenum owns the Buccaneers

by Travis :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:51pm

Three - Josh McCown owns the Dolphins (now 2-0 lifetime)

by MilkmanDanimal :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:18pm

There was a point yesterday where the big board at US Bank Stadium flashed to top fantasy QBs, and they were, in some order:

Jared Goff
Brian Hoyer
Blake Bortles
Case Keenum
Josh McCown


by Duke :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 10:12pm

The Bears ran for 220 yards on 36 carries while only throwing for 101 yards, on 15 of 22 passes. And I assure you, those passing stats give an accurate impression of how much the Bears were challenging the Steelers deep.

I just don't understand how that is sustainable. When you have a passing game that obviously can't go deep (due to some combination of awful QB and no talent at WR), I don't see how you can keep up that level of production it the running game.

Obviously it worked this week. I'm worried about how its going to go in the future.

by Will Allen :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 11:45pm

Take the league through a wormhole to 1971?

by Jerry :: Tue, 09/26/2017 - 4:46am

Thanks for confirming what I thought I saw with the receivers. I was impressed by how they actually engaged defenders instead of brush-blocking, but I thought I saw some holding. That said, I'll give the Bears credit for putting together a good enough running game that holding the DBs mattered.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:01pm

ATL-DET thoughts:

The Falcons are a strange team. When you see them play, they look like one of the best teams in the league. Excellent QB, offensive line, and skill players. Look unstoppable at times on offense. On defense, they have a fast and sure-tackling front seven, and a very good secondary. Yet, they're one dropped pass and 1/5 of a yard of being 1-2. To be fair, they probably should have had a three score lead on the Lions at points in the game, but two unlucky tipped passes and one great read by Glover Quin (on the pick-six) kept the Lions in the game. Barring catastrophic injuries, I expect them to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl again.

The Lions appear to be a little less lucky this year, but still look like a much better team than last year. It wouldn't surprise me if they finish 9-7 again, but this time on merit, not luck, as Mike Tanier put it.

As far as the ending of the game goes, reversing the TD was the right call. The 10 second runoff sucks, but it's part of the rules. Not sure if that needs to be changed or not (maybe 5 second runoff? or give the offense the option of loss of down instead [wouldn't have helped the Lions yesterday]). The Lions had three plays at the one yard line and couldn't get in. Can't say that Atlanta didn't deserve to win in that situation.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:44pm

At 1st and goal I wished the Lions had a running game, not necessarily to call a run but maybe a play fake would help or just not have the defense completely ignore the possibility. I also think throwing it into the end zone with less than 10 seconds left is a good idea. On a positive if the defense gets good pressure, like in the first half, they can keep games close or allow the offense to extend leads.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:09pm

I think FO's numbers have shown that play-action can still be effective for teams that don't have a successful running game, so that's probably something they should have run.

The defense's lack of LB depth was showing. Without Jarrad Davis, they looked like a totally different team. Inability to stop the run, passes to RB's and RB/WR screens were absolutely killing them. Just like last year. I am encouraged that the wideouts didn't kill them. Coverage down the field was pretty good.

The offense needs be a little more aggressive (less dink and dunk and more downfield throws) early on. They always seem risk averse to a fault until they're behind in the second half. Against the better teams, that strategy isn't sustainable.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:09pm

I was visiting my girlfriend this weekend so no chance to watch football (Portland area is a very pretty place), but I really wanted a chance to see Ben play. I haven't had a chance to watch the Steelers all season and I wanted to confirm something Greg Cosell said...Ben isn't the same player and has seen fissures opening up in his game. Is this true, though asking this week is probably unfair. Maybe I ought to wait till next week, but I'll throw it out there anyways.

Also sad I missed seeing Watson, but I've seen the Pats two weeks in a row and probably would have watched someone else.

by drobviousso :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:31pm

Its been true every game this year so far. The whole offense has been flat and discombobulated, outside of AB. Ben's short passes haven't been as accurate as normal - even easy completions aren't placed well causing receivers to adjust, lose momentum, and lose YAC. The deep balls aren't on target either.

Ben goes through these funks about once a year. I don't know if they are injury related, or what, but the whole offense suffers when it happens.

by greybeard :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:01pm

He still has great ALEX though. He throws those long beautiful incomplete passes very succesfully.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:14pm

I find it interesting Vince lumped in Cam Newton in his list of bad qbs. Especially this week when he's playing the Saints Defense in Carolina. A guy who won the MVP two years ago is now bad??? I'm hardly his biggest fan but this seems like an odd statement.

by BJR :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:27pm

I was going to ask if anybody was on Cam Newton watch this week? I missed yesterday's games (disappointing, as it seems I've missed easily the best football of the year so far having sat through some real clunkers in weeks 1/2), but thought he looked pretty awful last week. Perhaps Buffalo's defence is good this year, but putting up that line against the Saints? Yuck.

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:29pm

Didn't Peyton win the MVP and turn into a bad QB two years later? Ok, there were age-related concerns there but it can happen.

Maybe Cam just isn't having fun anymore :-(

by Hoodie_Sleeves :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:34pm

He pretty much went from being absolutely elite, to not being a viable NFL player in about a 12 game span. Age certainly was a huge factor, but it doesn't take much in the way of physical problems to derail these guys.

I haven't seen Cam play this year, but I've heard a lot of comments of him being completely out of shape - true?

by xydux :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:46pm

Vince might've thrown that in at around 4 ET, after the 1 PM games were close to finished and it was obvious that everyone mentioned (Cutler getting shut out against the Jets, Glennon Mike Glennoning, and Cam having a bad day) was going to do poorly this week. That hypothesis is assisted by the fact that he mentions that Josh McCown was NOT one of the QBs that had a bad day.

by Vincent Verhei :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 3:05pm

Yes. That comment showed up in the Ravens section, but it was written long after that game was over, when Cam was in the middle of a terrible game against a terrible defense.

by ChrisS :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:48pm

Vince said "Titans take over with 1:15 left, but only have one timeout left. And ... they end up kicking a field goal to go up 9-7 at halftime. But they spiked the ball on second down" I think it should be obvious that spiking the ball to stop the clock should only be done in cases where if you don't then time will run out.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 1:56pm

Who do people think is the worst team in football? Hard to believe, by record, the chargers are tied with the Browns and 49ers. I'm inclined to think its still Indy with an almost loss at home to the Browns, but the jets, bills, 49ers, Bears and quite a few others have genuinely surprised me with their competency. In a year where I thought the Jets and Bills might be historically terrible - almost no team seems to be.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:13pm

Their win yesterday notwithstanding, my money is on Indy (non-Luck version), with that roster and coaching staff. The (whatever the opposite of cream is) always floats to the bottom.

by Tomlin_Is_Infallible :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:45pm

they all float down there.

The standard is the standard!

by mehllageman56 :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:16pm

Injuries will probably ransack a team and make them worse than they project too right now. Just hoping the Colts don't get to ruin Darnold or Rosen like they ruined/wasted Luck.

Jets looked like the worst team until yesterday. They have some players (the rookie safeties are actually playing well), and they definitely outplayed Miami yesterday, but it is quite possible that Demario Davis won't be competent like he was yesterday and the run defense will still be a problem. The line has held up, and McCown hasn't taken a beating yet, but if he gets hurt those 69 yard bombs go away. Petty's long ball isn't that accurate, and Hackenberg isn't accurate anywhere.

I thought the idea the Bills would be really bad was an overreaction to them trading off players who were going to be gone soon anyway (Watkins, etc). Taylor is efficient, they have the best o-line in that division, and have some talent on defense. That's not a recipe for 3-13 unless Rich Kotite is your coach.

by Harris :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:16pm

The now 0-3 Giants lost to an Eagles team that came in missing four DBs and lost Fletcher Cox, Jordan Hicks and Darren Sproles during the game. They've got to be on the short list.

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:23pm

Dang! Forgot about the Giants. Hmmm...part of it may be they played a tough opening schedule and most of the games have been close. I guess the same can be said about San Diego.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:46pm

Only yesterday's game was close. They lost their first two by 16 and 14. The fact that their offense finally did something (against a tough defense, no less) probably makes their outlook better than it seemed before.

by big10freak :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 2:52pm

I caught the fourth quarter when all the action happened and a lot of the Giants positive offensive work was a combination of some really good passes by Eli coupled with the Eagle defenders either overpursuing or just missing the int/make the deflection.

That pass to Shepherd was in a really tight window between several defenders. Gotta give it to the old man on that one.

by BJR :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 4:46pm

The Giants' defense was elite last year, and whilst there may be some regression, I still expect that unit to be good. I didn't see yesterday's game, but they significantly limited the Cowboys and Lions - two good offences; it was the complete ineptitude of the offence that sunk them. Whilst I believe Eli is clearly on his last legs, and have severe doubts about McAdoo as a coach/play-caller, I have to believe they can figure something out to allow the offence to function (maybe that happened late on in yesterday's game - Beckham obviously wasn't healthy weeks 1/2).

Short version - I don't see them as anything like the worst team in the league, unless they are crippled by injuries.

by ChrisLong :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 6:13pm

Packers thoughts:
-Kevin King is a keeper. He got roasted by AJ Green sometimes but held his own on many other plays. If he didn't get roasted at all I would've been amazed. In Week 3 of his rookie year, the Packers have found something.
-McCarthy catches a lot of flak, but his adjustments after the half helped the Packers win the game. Bengals had 0 sacks in the last quarter plus when the Packers were constantly passing, more chipping by Bennett and more rollouts helped with that. Murphy's bad play was a little unexpected given his previous two performances, perhaps that's why they thought Lawson could be left on an island with him.
-Possibly related to above: Montgomery is total trash at chipping. Many times they would have him try and he just straight up whiffed. At that point he might as well run into the flat and be a safety valve, whiffing on a chip only slows him down.
-Martellus Bennett has been quite bad so far, he's only still on the field because he can block. If Cobb and the two tackles get healthy, the Packers best personnel grouping is 4 WR and Montgomery, by far.

by Arkaein :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 9:52pm

Re Bennett: At this point I'd like to see more of Kendricks.

He hasn't made a ton of plays, but he seems to get the job done competently when his name is called.

by nicholasashank@... :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 7:37pm

Rivers - The Redskins don't use C. Thompson as an every-down back because he would break. He had a torn acl and a broken back in college, a torn shoulder labrum for the Skins in recently. If the injury setting was turned off Gruden would use him every down, but as is, he's a little dude. He touched the ball on 14 out of the 28 snaps he played last night. He's amazing, but they can't use him every down.

by t.d. :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 8:12pm

Tennessee did to the Seahawks what they did to the Jags last week- play a close rock fight in the first half, then run it down their throat in the second half. That offensive line is really tough. I'm guessing the Raiders kept them off the field in week one by being more efficient offensively than Seattle or the Jags were able to, but the Titans defense isn't particularly vulnerable, either

by theslothook :: Mon, 09/25/2017 - 9:06pm

The raiders d line did a good job in run defense and Mack had some great plays. At least defensively, that game was about Mariota not being sharp throwing to anyone not named Delanie Walker