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20 Sep 2017

Scramble for the Ball: DOOM Index

by Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter

Bryan: We're two weeks into the season, and we all know what that means: your favorite team is DOOOOOOOOMED.

Andrew: My favorite team is doomed, you're right! And so is yours. Unlike some fans, however, we never expected much of our favorites, so those 0-2 records are not a shock to the system. Unlike, say, opening night in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Or Dallas discovering just what you do in Denver when you're dead (lose, heavily).

Bryan: Nothing amplifies doom like the weight of expectation. If you were a playoff team in 2016, you had every reason to expect good things out of 2017 -- you were one of the best of the best! You got bonus football last year! Everything was great! But every year, new teams rise to the playoffs, which means old teams come crashing out. And thus, some of last year's playoffs teams are definitely DOOOOOOOOMED.

Andrew: But which ones, and for what reasons? Your Scramble crew has put our collective heads together to devise the definitive 2017 DOOM index for 2016's playoff field.

Bryan: That is, of course, Defense-adjusted Ominousness Over Median. This is all very scientific and calculated, using the finest statistical methods and freshest goat entrails.

Andrew: Absolutely! This isn't just a cleverly disguised inverted power ranking. Not at all!

Bryan: And it's certainly not an opportunity for the fans of some 0-2 also-rans to take potshots at the best and brightest. No sir.


Ranked from least doomed to Doctor Doomed.

Kansas City Chiefs

Bryan: They're 2-0 and crushed the Patriots. In Foxborough. Please. I mean, I guess there's still the whiff of "Andy Reid has never won the big one," but we're kind of stretching there. If DOOM is tornado-chasing in mid-May, the Chiefs are a calm day in early fall with some BBQ and a six-pack.

Pittsburgh Steelers

Andrew: The Steelers got to 2-0 by defeating the Browns in Cleveland and mauling the Case Keenum Vikings in Pittsburgh. If Mike Tomlin has discovered the ability to win games easily when his team is supposed to win easily, we're all in trouble. Le'Veon Bell is only averaging 3.2 yards per carry, and that Browns game was a whole lot tighter than most people expected, but considering the condition of the Bengals offensive line, the length of the Ravens injury report, and the Brown-ness of the Browns generally, the Steelers can't possibly be concerned. If DOOM is a condiment-free hot dog stand, the Steelers are 57 varieties of January football.

Detroit Lions

Bryan: 2-0 is better than "not 2-0," but the Lions required something of a furious comeback to beat Arizona, which is looking like a disaster without David Johnson and with the crumbling remains of Carson Palmer. There's a bit of an "oh no, we're going to have to do that again?" feeling when it comes to those fourth-quarter comebacks; they needed eight last season, remember. And the Packers still caught them from behind, in the most important comeback of the season in the NFC North. If DOOM has a scent, in Detroit its fragrance is brie, or camembert, or possibly something Swiss.

Oakland Raiders

Andrew: The Beast is Back. The Raiders have scored a league-high 71 points. Only 45 of those were contributed by the Jets. If DOOM is a dance floor, Marshawn is the master of ceremonies:

Atlanta Falcons

Bryan: This would have been a lot higher if Aaron Rodgers and the Pack had managed to complete a comeback on Sunday night. The entire season is operating under the cloud of 28-3, so the stakes are higher for Atlanta than for anybody else in the league. There's memories of 1998, when the Falcons reached the Super Bowl, only to miss the playoffs each of the next three years. They need a championship to exorcise a lot of these demons. And remember, it wasn't just Green Bay that gave them a scare -- Chicago was driving for a potential game-winning touchdown at the gun in Week 1. This isn't a "playoff" doom, this is a higher-quality, more sophisticated doom. A "what is the point of a successful football team if you never win the big one?" doom. A "can Nietzsche dance the Dirty Bird?" DOOM.

Green Bay Packers

Andrew: I'll take any flavor of doom that comes with a pre-packed, healthy Aaron Rodgers. Green Bay's last two defeats have come, as we just noted, against the NFC champion Falcons. Otherwise, they have won three straight games in the NFC North to seal a division title, beaten both Dallas and Seattle (twice) and triumphed over the 2016 wild-card Giants and AFC South champion Texans, all in their past ten games. Even taking just out-of-division games, they have gone 5-2 over that period against five separate playoff teams. The secondary still has some people worried, but Rodgers gives them the firepower to make up for that against most opponents. The aroma of DOOM for the Packers is the entwined wafting of grilled cheese and toast -- as long as the defense isn't too toasted, everything's gonna taste great.

Seattle Seahawks

Bryan: I'd like to point out that Seattle's game-winning touchdown against San Francisco happened when two 49ers players blocked one another.

I'd also like to point out they needed a game-winning touchdown to beat the San Francisco 49ers. I, for one, am surprised the Seahawks offensive line is still horrible after all the nothing they did to try to fix it this offseason.

Seattle's brand of DOOM hasn't changed for years -- it's putting the "offensive" into "offensive line."

Dallas Cowboys

Andrew: The last time the Cowboys won a divisional-round playoff game, Bill Clinton was president, 12 Monkeys was the highest-grossing movie in America, Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men duetted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and Ezekiel Elliott was six months old. After the defense's performance against Denver in Week 2, coupled with a very poor offensive display, the sky appears to be falling in on this season's hopes. The offense will probably have to carry the team again despite Rod Marinelli's best efforts, but the outcome of Elliott's suspension court case is still to be determined -- meaning the team could yet miss its star running back for a sizeable portion of the season. If DOOM is a courtroom drama, the Cowboys are one legal judgement away from The Trial of the Incredible Hulk.

New England Patriots

Bryan: After two weeks, the Patriots are 22nd in DVOA. If that holds up, it would be their worst result since 1995. No defending champ had ever lost their Week 1 Thursday Night Home Opener since the NFL started that practice in 2004. Just like the last time the Patriots lost to the Chiefs in a big nationally televised game, this surely means the dynasty is over and ... what's that? Tom Brady threw for three touchdowns in the first quarter alone against New Orleans? Oh. They still need to hope their defense looks better than it did against the big arms of Drew Brees and, uh, Alex Smith; allowing 31 points per game is not going to get them very far. We've been down this road before with the Patriots, though. It may just be a wishful thinking DOOM, but it's better than 19-0 DOOM.

Houston Texans

Andrew: Yet again, the Houston Texans changed their starting quarterback between the end of the preseason and the start of Week 2. At the start of the regular season, Houston was one of the few AFC teams I thought capable of competing with New England -- as long as they could find somebody to throw the ball with basic proficiency. Given that they failed to do so, while Tennessee appears to have alleviated many of their own issues, the Texans may not even have the opportunity to lose to New England in the playoffs this year. A road win at Cincinnati is at least one positive development, but the Bengals are one of only four teams with an offense worse than the Texans by our numbers so far this year. If DOOM is uncertain performance at the most important position in the sport, the Houston Texans are still Bill O'Brien's Houston Texans.

Miami Dolphins

Bryan: A 1-0 team, doomed? Well, they're only 1-0 because the Chargers gotta Charger. Their starting strongside linebacker went AWOL, prompting the team to file a missing persons report before finding him about to board a plane to Pennsylvania. They won't play their first true home game until October 8. They managed just one yard on 15 plays in the red zone, giving the Chargers that chance to win the game on a last-second field goal. Jarvis Landry is on pace to catch roughly 100 2-yard outs. They don't have a bye week to deal with the inevitable injuries that happen in an NFL season, and lose a home game to fly out to London for whatever reason. They're also forced to rely on a retired commentator whose arm looks wet-noodlish at quarterback. But, hey, 1-0 and atop the AFC East! This is a "waiting for the other shoe to drop" sort of DOOM.

New York Giants

Andrew: Two teams have scored fewer points than the New York Giants in 2017. One is the Cincinnati Bengals, who managed nine total points against the Baltimore Ravens and Houston Texans. The Bengals fired their offensive coordinator this week and are facing down calls to bench their starting quarterback. The other is the San Francisco 49ers, who opened the season at home against the tough Carolina Panthers defense then on the road against the outstanding Seattle Seahawks. The Giants, meanwhile, scored three points at home against a Dallas defense that was promptly shredded mercilessly by Trevor Siemian, then 10 points at home to a Detroit Lions defense that rated worse than the Saints in DVOA last year. Yes, the Giants defense might still be good, but it is not going to hold every future opponent below seven points. Yes, the offense is currently 25th in DVOA, not dead last, but that won't matter if they don't start scoring more than ten points per game. If DOOM is an apple on the head of Henny Penny, the Giants offensive line is an asteroid headed straight for Eli Manning.

Loser League Update

(Ed. Note: We're having some sort of database issue that is preventing the Loser League scores from being properly posted. We'll let everyone know once that is fixed and you can see how your team is doing. UPDATE FRIDAY: Hey! It's working now. Click here for results.)

Quarterback: Admittedly, playing the Seattle defense will hurt anyone's fantasy numbers, but Brian Hoyer went above and beyond (below and in front of?) expectations. He had just 99 passing yards and an interception, despite a running game that was working quite well. That gave him his Loser League-leading 2 points. Another few weeks like that, and it may be C.J. Beathard time in San Francisco.

Running Back: You thought it would be Ezekiel Elliott after his no-show in Denver, didn't you? Nope! While Zeke's 8 rushing yards were terrible, he managed to scrape together a point with 14 yards through the air. That leaves Jordan Howard as your low man with 7 rushing yards and 0 points. Not only has Howard lost touches to Tarik Cohen, but he also left the field with his arm in a sling. That bodes poorly.

Wide Receiver: An extremely busy day for the Goose Egg Club. Breshad Perriman had no receptions, while Robert Woods, Corey Davis, Corey Coleman, Bennie Fowler, Mike Wallace, Curtis Samuel, Sammie Coates, Tavon Austin, Kenny Golladay and Trent Taylor were all held to under 10 yards receiving, all earning the much-deserved 0.

Kicker: Younghoe Koo's missed field goals may be the talk of the league, but at least those are field goal attempts he's missing. Kai Forbath missed an extra point.


Keep Choppin' Wood: Here at Scramble HQ, we try to keep our awards traditional. Sure, we may introduce a new one or mix them up a bit from time to time, but we at least like to keep each one for its intended, historical purpose. Sometimes though, events defy categorization, transcend the neat little boxes we create for ourselves, and bleed across multiple categories of failure. When the failure is that complete, we cannot help but award the highest honor in Scramble to the perpetrators. Step forward, San Diego Los Angeles Chargers. This past Sunday alone, the Chargers achieved the following both on and off the field:

Dating back to last season, the Chargers are now 1-10 in games decided by eight points or fewer. Once again: new home, new name, same old Chargers.

Herm Edwards Award for Playing to Win The Game: The Arizona Cardinals were meant to be one of this season's dark horse contenders after a surprise down year in 2016. Turns out, that may have been a touch optimistic. After a Week 1 home loss to Detroit, the Cardinals trailed by 10 in Indianapolis, and could have forgiven for taking the field goal when a 15-yard pass play came up a yard short on third-and-goal. Bruce Arians had his team go for it on fourth-and-1 instead. Though the pass to Larry Fitzgerald fell incomplete, Arizona was at least rewarded with the consolation prize of good field position after the Colts went three-and-out. Those goal-line fourth-down decisions are not just about seven points over three, but the favorable situation you often have even if you fail.

John Fox Award for Conservatism: Sunday's NFL Red Zone highlights featured Scott Hanson commenting on an apparently wild throw by Jay Cutler to end the first half for Miami in Los Angeles. On further inspection, the throw was intended to be well out of bounds: with two seconds left, on fourth down from their own side of midfield, Adam Gase called for Cutler to heave the ball over the head of the jogging Kenny Stills from behind a nine-man protection, using up the last two seconds of the half without risking a fumble, interception return, or punt return. Was the risk of an interception return really worth passing up a possible heave toward the goal line, or even simply punting out of bounds? While conservatism is understandable in that situation, your Scramble team considers this play call to go beyond the call of duty, and be well worthy of the approval of John Fox.

Jeff Fisher Award for Confusing Coaching: There are times when risk is justified, and times when conservatism is justified. At the very least, you should pick one and stick with it. We're looking at you, Sean Payton. In the second quarter, the Saints faced a fourth-and-8 on the Patriots' 16-yard line, and kicked a 35-yard field goal. However, the Patriots jumped offsides! Payton decided to accept the penalty and line up for the ensuing fourth-and-3. A bold move, taking points off the board in exchange for a chance at a touchdown. Down 20-10 against an inspired Patriots team, some risk may be necessary to win the game.

Instead, however, the Saints merely lined up -- in a goal-line rushing formation on fourth-and-3, no less -- and tried to get the Patriots to jump offsides. When this failed, they took the delay of game penalty and had to kick another 35-yard field goal. Why take the field goal off the board if you weren't going to run a play? Since 2014, teams have made about 92 percent of their field goals from that range, so it wasn't the world's biggest gamble, but it was an entirely unnecessary one.

'Hidden Behind a Beast' Fantasy Player of the Week: Marshawn Lynch gets most of the publicity in Oakland, but the Raiders' rushing game isn't a one-horse show. Jalen Richard has always had breakaway speed, and he showed it off against the Jets. He earned 109 all-purpose yards and a touchdown against New York, buoyed by a 52-yard touchdown run and a 39-yard reception to set up another score. With only eight touches, it's going to be a very boom-or-bust season for Richard. When he booms, it's going to funnel fantasy points away from your team to the waiver wire, and that doesn't benefit anyone. It's enough to make you choke on a Skittle.

Blake Bortles Garbage-Time Performer of the Week: Allen Hurns was your WR10 in fantasy last week, finishing with six receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown. A perfectly solid day ... until you realize his first reception came late in the third quarter with the Jaguars already down 23-3 and fading fast. Three of his six catches, including his touchdown, came on Jacksonville's last drive, a real momentum changer. Instead of losing by 28, the Jags lost by 21. Hurray! With Allen Robinson out for the year, Hurns is in line for a ton of sweet garbage time yards.

'Comfort in Sadness' Stat of the Week: Fresh off an exciting road victory in Houston that had even the team's official Twitter account referring to the defense as "Sacksonville," the Jacksonville Jaguars managed precisely one 5-yard sack in their home blowout loss against a Titans side that has allowed only 30 total sacks during Mike Mularkey's 18-game tenure as permanent head coach. Blake Bortles threw two deflected interceptions and was strip-sacked by Brian Orakpo as the Titans racked up 30 consecutive points following the Jaguars' opening-drive field goal.

It took Jacksonville until the fourth quarter, down 30-3, before they ran a single play beyond Tennessee's 25-yard line. Once they got there, however, the Jaguars offense was perfect: five plays, five successes, 39 yards, two touchdowns, 100 percent red zone efficiency , and the only blemish a failed two-point conversion on a pass to Allen Hurns. The Jaguars have made it to first down inside the red zone five times in their opening two games (discounting the kneeldown series against Houston), and have four touchdowns and one field goal to show for it. Now if only they can figure out how to start every drive inside the opposing 25-yard line, the team will be in much better shape.

Game-Changing Play of the Week: The winner should be YoungHoe Koo again, but a) we just acknowledged a missed Koo game-winning field goal last time, and ii) we already have mocked the three remaining Chargers fans enough for one week. Phil Dawson's missed field goal that sent the Cardinals-Colts game into overtime was another possibility, but the Colts blundered that one right back to them. So, instead, let's take a trip to Kansas City where Kareem Hunt is doing incredible things.

Look at that hole. Four Kareem Hunts could have fit through it. Neither of us has touched a football in 15 years, and we could probably pick up 5 yards with that caliber blocking. Up to this point, the Chiefs had only managed 194 yards of offense and were having trouble sustaining drives; this play helped spark their offense and they never trailed again. It increased their PFR win probability from 45.6 percent to 66.9 percent, even taking into account Travis Kelce's taunting penalty. In what's looking like the toughest division in football, the win was huge for Kansas City; they now have the second-highest odds for an AFC first-round bye in our playoff simulations, just behind Pittsburgh. With Oakland looking great and Trevor Siemian playing better than expected, the winner of the AFC West is going to have to win their winnable games. The loss didn't hurt Philadelphia as much because of losses by Dallas and New York, but it was a lost opportunity to take an early lead in the division and pick up a key road victory in the common games tiebreaker.

Three-Eyed Raven Lock of the Week

All picks are made without reference to FO's Premium picks, while all lines are courtesy of Bovada and were accurate as of time of writing.

Andrew: Cleveland (minus-1) at Indianapolis. Did I read this right? The Browns are actually favored on the road? This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity, so I'm going to grab it with both hands! Unlike the Colts, the Browns will be starting a quarterback who has been with the team for over a month. The Browns also have some units on the team that look reasonable, perhaps even average. Their offense has taken a hit with the loss of Corey Coleman to a broken hand, but Ricardo Louis and Rashard Higgins can pick up some of that slack to add to the recent receiving production from their tight ends and Duke Johnson. Sooner or later Kenny Britt will show up, too. Not much is right with the Colts, from at least the head coach down, so I like the Browns to score both their first road win since October 2015 and their first out-of-division road win since November 2014 in this one.

Bryan: I'm tempted by New England (minus-13.5) at home against Houston, but I try to avoid taking double-digit favorites because that ends up being more dictated by the exact game circumstances rather than team quality. So instead, I'll take an underdog -- Detroit (plus-3) at home versus Atlanta. Atlanta's going to be without Vic Beasley and Courtney Upshaw, so that puts a bit of a crimp in their attempts to stop Matthew Stafford. Detroit's defense has yet to face a super difficult test, but so far, they have been top-five in both defense and special teams. I think that will be enough to keep the score close, with a game more like Atlanta's narrow escape in Chicago rather than the shootout at home against the Packers.

Records to date:
Bryan: 1-0
Andrew: 1-0

Thursday Night Scramble Drill

One reason you should watch Thursday's game, with the Rams traveling to Santa Clara to take on the 49ers? The 49ers are 3-19 in their last 22 games. More specifically, they're 3-0 against the Rams and 0-19 against every other team in the NFL. You wouldn't want to miss one of the 49ers' rare wins, would you?

Football Outsiders doesn't answer fantasy questions on Twitter, so if you don't have a Premium subscription and access to the 24-hour Fantasy Answering Service, the Scramble mailbag is one way to get a Football Outsiders answer to your fantasy questions! Email us with fantasy questions, award suggestions, crazy videos, outlandish conspiracy theories, apocalyptic scenarios for playoff contenders, and other assorted flotsam and jetsam at scramble@footballoutsiders.com.

Posted by: Bryan Knowles and Andrew Potter on 20 Sep 2017

17 comments, Last at 23 Sep 2017, 11:38am by Bryan Knowles


by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 09/20/2017 - 2:41pm
by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Wed, 09/20/2017 - 2:46pm

Atlanta's going to be without Vic Beasley and Courtney Upshaw, so that puts a bit of a crimp in their attempts to stop Matthew Stafford.

Fool! Fool!

Detroit's only LB who can cover in space is injured!

by ChrisS :: Wed, 09/20/2017 - 3:32pm

regarding the Chargers and this comment "Missed their second last-minute game-losing field goal in as many weeks, despite the Dolphins calling a timeout which allowed the Chargers to take their time on what would have otherwise been a "fire drill" attempt." I think the plan was for Rivers to spike the ball (it was 3rd down), but not all of the FG unit knew this so some of them ran on the field spreading confusion to the Dolphins. So that makes it a little less bad, I guess, maybe?

by MaineRaider :: Wed, 09/20/2017 - 4:08pm

So, are the top four teams on the DOOM index the Fantastic Four? And will there be a Zev Love X index next week?

by Bryan Knowles :: Wed, 09/20/2017 - 4:24pm

I have no idea how big of a comics fan Andrew is, but don't be super-surprised if we trend that general direction at some point in future <_<

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 11:21am

There are currently no players active in the NFL with the last name Richards, which ruins the opportunity for an "THAT ACCURSED RICHARDS!" joke.

by JoeyHarringtonsPiano :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 12:01pm

Can't you modify it? "THAT ACCURSED RICHARDSON!" perhaps?

by MilkmanDanimal :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 12:31pm

At this point, I'm going to assume Roger Goodell is the living personification of the Ultimate Nullifier and is the only thing capable of stopping the cosmic force of winning known as Belichict-us.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 12:42pm

Goodell is clearly the Living Tribunal.

by drillz :: Wed, 09/20/2017 - 4:36pm

2016 was "The Year of No Great Teams" 2017 "Doom"

by apk3000 :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 7:48am

I feel like we need a special non-Chargers KCW award. If only because the outrage here in DC over Gruden calling the end-zone fade again is hilarious.

by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 12:52pm

We promise we won't be down on the Chargers every week, but they make it ~so hard~.

by jtr :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 3:01pm

The worst part of Peyton's stupid line-up-just-to-hard-count thing is that the Steelers actually managed to draw the Vikings offside on fourth-and-short this week, so now everybody's going to see that success and keep trying. Of course, later Pittsburgh tried the same thing and ended up just burning a timeout.

by Bryan Knowles :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 3:28pm

There's nothing wrong with the "try to get them to jump" strategy, though it requires your team to occasionally go for it to prove that it's not JUST a bluff. It's the whole "take points off the board and force a re-kick" thing.

I tried to calculate how often the "offsides jump" thing actually works, but it's a bit of a tricky thing to find. You'd have to not only find all the first downs via penalty (a relatively simple task) but then also sort through all the delays of game and wasted timeouts to find the actual attempts. You'd have to also discern between "delays of game to try to get them to jump", "delays of game to move five yards back for better punting room" and "delays of game because they tried to run a play and screwed up", which would require looking through every single one. A bit much for a last-second Scramble switch :P

by Bright Blue Shorts :: Fri, 09/22/2017 - 6:15am

Listening to Scott Zolak on the radio broadcast he read the situation perfectly that it was just an attempt to try and get the Pats to jump offside.

But he also said something like "Heck give it a go. You've just got them to jump offsides on the previous attempt and it's early in the season and there could be some rookie nerves out there".

And the fact that ordinarily teams don't take points off the board and with a capable offense like the Saints, it could all point to the team doing more than trying to draw them offsides.

Plus while there's a risk of missing the rekick, there's also potential for another defensive penalty occurring on it and getting the first down awarded.

If it had been the Browns I'd agree with this award but I'm comfortable with the Saints giving it a go.

by Aaron Brooks Go... :: Thu, 09/21/2017 - 4:52pm

It kills me when teams burn a TO to prevent the 5 yard penalty immediately before a punt.

It's the stupidest TO in the game, because it serves no tactical purpose.

by Bryan Knowles :: Sat, 09/23/2017 - 11:38am

I mean, I could see an argument for it if your punter was somehow 100% reliable at kicking the ball a certain distance; five yards can make all the difference in the long run.

But until a team gets that beta version of ROBOPUNTER in there, it's all kinda a moot point.